Levin man's party pill death was 'Russian roulette': coroner

Taking party pills without knowing what they are has been likened to ''playing Russian roulette'' by a coroner investigating the death of a Levin man. 

Joshua James Waho, 35, died in Palmerston North Hospital on February 10, 2007, two days after taking what a friend called ''happy pills'' at a Levin pub.

''The death of Mr Waho starkly illustrates the dangers of people taking substances offered to them by others, the nature of which cannot be known,'' coroner Garry Evans said in his report released today. 

''The terms happy pills and recreational drugs are misnomers. In many ways, as this case illustrates, the taking of these kinds of drugs is like playing Russian roulette.''

The pills Waho took on February 8, 2007, were clozapine.

Dr Justine Pickett, who carried out an autopsy on Waho, told the coroner clozapine was an anti-psychotic medication with a wide range of potential toxic effects.

However they were described as ''happy pills'' when Dean Rickerby gave them to Waho and their associate Gregory Ahern at the New Levin Hotel.

Each of the three men took several pills and all three ended up in Palmerston North Hospital later that night, with Ahern and Rickerby being discharged the following day.

Evans found Rickerby did not know what the nature of the drugs he was handing out were as he took some himself.

While the police investigated Waho's death at the time, a coroner's inquest was not held as the file relating to Waho's death was ''inadvertently filed'' Evans said.

The inquest was eventually held in Levin on December 6, 2012, after the error was uncovered.

Evans said the Government was to be complimented for the firmer policy it was now taking, under the leadership of the Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne, towards the manufacture and sale of so-called party pills.

Dunne has led moves to ban several recreational drugs including BZP-based party pills and synthetic cannabis products.

Manawatu Standard