An inquest into the death of a Bromley teenager discovered dead at her home in January found she died of a heroin overdose.
The hearing into the case of 16-year-old Sasha Steadman today at Croydon Coroner’s Court recorded a verdict of accidental death.
The “kind and caring” former arts student at Bromley College was discovered at home in Upper Park Road on January 28 by mum Claire Shaw, with a needle in her arm and anti-histamine tablets nearby.
London Ambulance Service personnel pronounced her dead at 5.13pm while police took drug paraphernalia, her mobile phone, and laptop as evidence.
Coroner Dr Serena Lynch said Sasha had not intended to end her life, despite having suffered with mental illness and mentioning suicidal thoughts in the past.
She said: “Mental health and drug use don’t go well together. People take advantage of it.
“Everyone was very worried about her and doing all they could to help.
“I think I can rule out suicide – I don’t think that’s what happened.
“It is heart-breaking to hear about Sasha. It seems she was more concerned with helping others and I’m very sorry that you (family) lost her.”
The inquest heard how Sasha had spent time on a website described by the family as a “gospel of darkness”, and had been searching ‘self-harm’ on social networking platforms such as Tumblr.
Mrs Shaw explained she first became aware her daughter was using drugs in November last year but had been inflicted with depression for some time.
She said: “She admitted it but didn’t want to talk about it.
“Towards the end we were at the point where we thought care was the best option. It was too much.”
Sasha had been receiving care from the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service as well as independent youth support organisation Bromley Y.
In July last year she was referred to psychiatrist Peter Hollis after other treatments seemed to have little impact.
Speaking in court Dr Hollis described Sasha as “dignified” but “secretive” and said there were a lot of silences in sessions.
He said: “She didn’t want to talk about herself. She was suffering a lot but didn’t find it easy to talk about.
“We didn’t know about the drug use until November.
“It could have been a way to self-medicate.
“It was her way of relieving stress and improving her mood.”
Both Mrs Shaw and Dr Hollis believed a holiday to the USA and Jamaica not long before Sasha’s death had looked to have been a “turning point”.
But her health quickly deteriorated again once back in the UK and having not taken heroin while abroad her tolerance level is thought to have dropped.
Dr Lynch therefore noted it is likely Sasha took an accidental overdose because of her time away from the drug.
The cause of death was recorded as opiate intoxication.