The mother of DJ and music channel entrepreneur Jamal Edwards has said he died from a drug-related heart attack.
Edwards, a much-loved figure whose YouTube channel SB.TV launched many grime, rap and pop acts including Dave, Stormzy and Ed Sheeran, died suddenly at home in west London in February aged 31.
His mother, Brenda Edwards, a TV presenter, said on Tuesday in a statement: "Since I last spoke I have sadly learned that the cause of Jamal's devastating passing was due to a cardiac arrhythmia caused by having taken recreational drugs and I wanted to address this myself to everyone who loved, admired and respected my son.
“These types of substances are extremely unpredictable, and we can only hope that this will encourage others to think wisely when faced with similar situations in the future. His passing has shown that any one bad decision on any one occasion can lead to devastating consequences.
“It’s so important that we help drive more conversation about the unpredictability of recreational drugs and the impact that they can have – how it takes just one bad reaction to destroy lives. I would do anything to have my son back but that is just not possible so if I can help save one life, then we will have achieved something.”
At an inquest into his death at West London Coroner’s Court which was opened on Tuesday and then adjourned to resume in eight weeks’ time, Assistant Coroner Catherine Wood said Jamal “became increasingly agitated and suffered a cardiac arrest” after returning home from a night out. She said despite treatment his condition deteriorated, and that a post-mortem led her “to suspect that the death was an unnatural death.”
Cocaine is the drug most frequently mentioned in relation to deaths from heart attacks, although other stimulant drugs such as amphetamines including MDMA can also cause heart attacks.
But it is cocaine that is causing the most deaths in the UK. In 2020, 777 people in England and Wales were recorded as having died due to cocaine - a five-fold rise compared to 2010, and over ten times as many deaths than those caused by MDMA. Cocaine use in the UK has risen four-fold since 1995.
According to the NHS’s website, heart attack from the use of cocaine is one of the most common causes of sudden death in young people.
Taking cocaine raises heart rate and blood pressure, and narrows blood vessels, restricting blood supply. It can cause chest pain, increase the risk of irregular heart rates and the chances of people having heart attacks. Deaths from cocaine can occur as a result of long term use, one-off incidents and among those with pre-existing heart conditions.
“Cocaine affects the heart within minutes of taking it,” said Harry Sumnall, professor in Substance Use at the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University. “It stimulates the release of a neurotransmitter called noradrenaline, which leads to a rapid increase in heart rate and blood pressure. At the same time blood vessels narrow, and so whilst the heart is demanding more oxygen, less is available. This can lead to tissue damage or heart attack because of the lack of oxygen, producing chest pains and in more serious cases, death.
“Cocaine is also a local anaesthetic and at high doses makes the heart take a longer time to contract and relax than usual, leading to arrhythmias or abnormal rhythms. This can also lead to cardiac arrest and is another cause of sudden death after cocaine.
“Regular cocaine use is also bad for the heart in the long term. One adverse effect is a dysfunction of the lining of the heart and blood vessels, the endothelia, which not only leads to greater sensitivity to noradrenaline after cocaine, but a decrease in blood flow to the heart even when cocaine hasn’t been taken. These both increase the risk of a serious cardiac event.”
Jamal was appointed an MBE in 2015 for services to music through his YouTube channel SB.TV and was an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust.