Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blaming the wrong drug

It's a bit of a surprise to see Wellington coroner Ian Smith declaring Lisa McMillan's death a methamphetamine overdose:
The coroner ruled her death it was due to a brain haemorrhage as a result of methamphetamine toxicity. He did not make any recommendations following the death.
The conclusion is surprising, because the Law Commission's Controlling & Regulating Drugs Discussion Document made it clear that there had been no reported cases of meth OD in NZ:
2.51 There are no known deaths due to methamphetamine overdose in New Zealand. However, large doses can cause potentially life-threatening conditions, such as hyperthermia, renal and liver failure, cardiac arrhythmias, heart attacks, cerebrovascular haemorrhages, strokes and seizures. Toxic reactions can occur irrespective of “dose, frequency of use or route of administration, and have been reported with small amounts and on the first occasion of use”.
 Cerebrovascular haemorrhages can also be caused by paracetamol, fatal overdoses of which are chronically under-reported in the media compared to illegal drugs:

You might note that meth doesn't make it onto this list either. It is not a drug known for overdoses.

The last graf in this report on Ms McMillan hints at another cause of death:
While both her partner and brother had noticed she seemed to be taking an excessive amount of Panadol in the months leading up to her death, she had no history of drug or alcohol use. 
 But we can't go blaming legal drugs. Not while there's an illegal scapegoat at hand.