A Dunedin man is believed be the first person in the
country confirmed to have died from an overdose of the banned
party pill, benzylpiperazine (BZP).
Richard Paul Ennis (45) died from acute cardio-respiratory
failure because of a BZP overdose at his Dunedin home on
December 2, 2011, Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar has
The beneficiary was last seen by other residents of the
boarding house where he lived between 9.30am and 10am on the
day of his death.
About 8.30pm, a fellow resident knocked on his door and,
after getting no response, looked through his window.
He saw Mr Ennis lying on his back on the bathroom floor, and
forced entry through the window.
On finding Mr Ennis unresponsive, his neighbour started CPR
and alerted other residents.
St John ambulance officers, on arrival at the Great King St
property, found he was dead.
Police determined there were no suspicious circumstances
surrounding the death.
A postmortem was held and samples of blood, urine and liver
were forwarded to ESR for toxicological analysis.
While a trace of alcohol was detected, ESR found about 38mg
of BZP per litre of blood.
This level of BZP was reported as being ''approximate'', as
it was above the highest calibration standard.
Toxicologist, Leo Schep, of the Dunedin-based National
Poisons Centre, told the Otago Daily Times the blood
levels were ''surprisingly high, and he may have had a
massive dose coupled with postmortem redistribution of the
The manufacture and sale of BZP was banned by Parliament in
The coroner's finding noted that, although there had been no
scientific reports confirming death from BZP, ESR had
analysed cases where the party pill was associated with
One case involved a fatal motor vehicle crash, another where
BZP was detected with alcohol and other drugs, and in four
years of testing there were three sudden deaths where BZP was
the only drug detected.
The coroner found no evidence he took his own life, and it
was ''significantly more likely that the BZP was
self-administered for recreational purposes with the
intention, on behalf of Richard Ennis, that he obtain some
''Those persons indulging in the taking of illegal drugs for
recreational purposes must be warned that the consequences of
ingestion are difficult to predict.''
The coroner noted drugs designed to be used for recreational
purposes, rather than medical purposes, were not manufactured
to any legal, enforceable quality or quantity standards and
might be contaminated.
''The public must be warned to consume only drugs prescribed
for them by appropriately qualified medical practitioners and
to take these drugs solely as directed in the prescription,''
the coroner said.
Dr Paul Gee, a Christchurch-based emergency specialist, told
the ODT he was aware of several other deaths, but
based on the knowledge at the time, the deaths ''could not be
classified ... as BZP-related''.
He warned anyone who had stockpiled the product to ''flush
''It is Russian roulette. You don't know what you have got
... and whether is is going to be dangerous.''