No evidence overdose killed Ritalin user - coroner

Coroner David Crerar
Coroner David Crerar

A North Otago driller discovered dead after injecting Ritalin died of a heart attack, a coroner has found.

Victor Coughlin's lifeless body was found lying face down on his bedroom floor by his son Jaidyn Clydesdale, at his Craig St address in Palmerson about 1.30 am on June 13 last year.

Coughlin, 52, was lying next to a syringe he had used to inject methylphenidate, commonly known by its trademark Ritalin. He was also wearing a sock that contained four vials of the drug, three of which were empty.

Clydesdale said his father had begun recreationally injecting Ritalin, a drug commonly prescribed to treat attention attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, about five months previously.

Clydesdale had told his father, who was using the drug illegally, to "do it safely" before Clydesdale went to bed about 11pm. When Clydesdale checked on Coughlin about 1.30am, he found him unresponsive from what appeared to be an overdose.

Coroner David Crerar said the concentrations of Ritalin found in Coughlin's blood were "only slightly more" that those which would have resulted from a prescribed dose.

This was insufficient to attribute Coughlin's death to an overdose, Crerar said.

Coughlin had risk factors for heart disease. He was a smoker with a family history of the disease and was taking anti-inflammatories for his shoulder, he said.

The Ritalin may have contributed to Coughlin's heart attack, Crerar said.

Crerar wished to "draw to public attention the dangers of acquiring prescription drugs illegally and the self-administration of these drugs".

"Methylphenidate is not intended, in the majority of applications, to be taken intravenously. The effects of the IV introduction of the drug into the blood stream in a recreational scenario cannot be predicted," he said.

"The quantity and quality of does of drugs acquired illegally cannot be measured or guaranteed.

"The public is warned that all prescription drugs ought to be taken strictly in accordance with the prescription and that drugs obtained illegally ought not to be used."

The Press