‘I’ve never been so close to death’: 21-year-old survives coma after smoking legal high Vertex

He’s on medication for the rest of his life

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A lucky drug user spent five days desperately fighting for his life after trying a deadly legal high.

21-year-old Jordan Hawthorne suffered a seizure after smoking Vertex, widely available from shops and branded “not fit for human consumption”.

After five long days he came round from the medically induced coma with brain damage, and almost destroyed his vital organs.

He had smoked cannabis from the age of 17 and the legal substance Berries thinking it harmless, but it sparked a downward spiral which almost ended his life.

Jordan needs to take medication for the rest of his life

Jordan needs to take medication for the rest of his life

Jordan went into seizure and ended up in intensive care after trying Vertex.

But after winning his fight for life, Jordan, who lives in Plymouth, has been joined by his family in calling on the government to introduce a blanket ban on introducing legal highs.

He said: “I have never been so close to death. It was so severe this time I don’t remember it.

“I remember buying the packet, walking home and then waking up in hospital.

“I only remember what my girlfriend and my best friend told me, I was essentially a zombie.

“As soon as I started smoking it I couldn’t speak. I was dribbling. I smoked it for about five days and my girlfriend had to feed me, dress me, put me to bed.

“I wasn’t me. I looked like me, but I was completely gone. Then while I was in bed I started having seizures.”

Jordan revealed he is still suffering the after effects and wakes up every day with a splitting headache.

His kidneys hurt, his memory is ruined, it takes him 10 minutes to do a simple maths equation and he will spend the rest of his life taking medication to combat epileptic seizures.

Jordan and his dad want legal highs to be banned

Jordan and his dad want legal highs to be banned

He said: “From the age of 17 to 20 I pretty much smoked cannabis every single day.

“They were saying Vertex was just like cannabis but you wouldn’t get in trouble.

“You felt mellow and relaxed, but it was so much stronger.

“After trying that once, a tiny amount, I said ‘I don’t think I’ll ever smoke weed again’. It was so strong and so cheap and you can’t get in trouble, so what’s the point?”

He added: “The next day I went and bought some more, but after a couple of days my tolerance had built up and a gram would only last me a couple of hours.

“It becomes seriously addictive, as soon as you run out it’s all you can think about.

“You can’t sleep at night, you get panic attacks, hypertension, you get angry, you get agitated, you think the world’s going to end, really irrational thoughts.

“It’s a sense of panic in your head, frightened if you don’t have it, your life is never going to be the same again.

“That was just after a couple of days of smoking it.”

Jordan in hospital

Jordan in hospital

In July last year, Jordan suffered his first seizure and was hospitalised, but within hours he was given the all clear and sent home.

He said: “I knew it was bad, but part of me thought I’d just smoked too much. Because it was so addictive, I couldn’t stop myself.”

Over the next few weeks the addiction grew. He was smoking legal highs every day, spending up to £40 a time and began stealing to fund his habit.

He also branched out to try different substances known as Pandora’s Box and Voodoo.

During a third hospital visit in February this year, an MRI scan revealed he had a choroidal cyst on his brain.

By the end of April he had been sober for three months, but was unable to get a job and feeling bored and depressed.

He returned to cannabis but found it was not strong enough so tried Vertex.

Now back at home, surrounded by family and beginning the road to recovery, Jordan has reflected on how his life began to spiral out of control.


He believes the cumulative effect of so much intense drug use has caused long-term damage.

He said: “My memory is all but ruined, for the past two years I can’t put anything in chronological order.

“I’m almost dyslexic. I spell everything wrong. I used to be really good at maths, but I tried to work out what 60 divided by 12 was and it took me 10 minutes of genuinely struggling.

“It really is difficult for me to concentrate and get things right.”

The cravings are not as strong now as they were before, but Jordan knows he is not yet out of the woods.

He said: “I still think about legal highs every single day, but I don’t feel the need to smoke them.

“I never want to go back to it, because I know next time I probably won’t wake up.

“I’ve completely isolated myself from anyone who does drugs, but because I don’t have work I don’t get tired.

“I sit at home on my computer or watching TV, but it becomes mind-numbing. I lack a purpose. I don’t feel I’m worth anything.”

Jordan’s father, Robert Almond, welcomed the government’s planned blanket ban on legal highs, but says it must be implemented as soon as possible.

Legal highs are not currently covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 because drugs are classified as illegal by their chemical compounds.

The composition of legal highs is often slightly altered so the ban is avoided.

But the government has proposed a Psychoactive Substances Bill, which would be applied to “any substance intended for human consumption which is capable of producing a psychoactive effect”.

Robert, 49, an accountant, said: “It would stop every new person who hasn’t done it yet from going and trying it.

“All the 15 and 16-year-olds who are going to buy it next week, they will never be able to buy it so their parents won’t be in my position of going to hospital every day to see whether he has woken up.

“It has been a nightmare, not just for the last 12 months but the two years before.

“There was such a thin line between him dying and surviving. Luckily he pulled through – but there have been others who haven’t.

“They tried to bring him out the coma after 72 hours but were unsuccessful. At that time, we did not know if he would ever come back.”