An unemployed Cromwell man died of an accidental drug
overdose after injecting a painkiller solution while under
the influence of other drugs, a coroner has found.
Dale Lenard Smitheram died on October 30, 2010, at the home
of his former partner, Kaylene O'Brien, and their daughter,
where he had been staying, a report of Otago Southland
coroner David Crerar released this week said.
Mr Smitheram was found in the bathroom the following morning
lying in a fetal position clutching a syringe with a needle.
The syringe was found to have traces of codeine and a nearby
spoon was found to contain diazepam (prescribed for anxiety
relief) and oxycodone (a narcotic painkiller containing
oxycontin and oxynorm).
A tab of 10 oxycontin 40mg tablets was found near him, as
well as other drug paraphernalia and cannabis.
Ms O'Brien's mother, who lived next door, had been prescribed
oxycontin and oxynorm tablets which Mr Crerar determined had
been stolen by Mr Smitheram.
Evidence given to police by people who were socialising with
Mr Smitheram before he overdosed stated they had been smoking
cannabis and drinking.
Toxicology reports showed him to have alcohol, diazepam and
oxycodone in his blood, as well as unconfirmed indications of
Those reports also said that although the amount of oxycodone
in his blood was lower than what would generally be seen in
similar deaths, the presence of alcohol and diazepam would
have added to the effects.
Mr Smitheram was described as a known drug user and abuser.
He had previous drug convictions and at the time of his death
was on active drug charges.
Ms O'Brien gave evidence that he was seeking help for his
drug addiction problem.
Mr Crerar said he found no evidence that Mr Smitheram's death
was a suicide.
He found that Mr Smitheram "whilst adversely affected by
alcohol and cannabis, has prepared a solution of
oxycodone/oxycontin and injected this into his bloodstream
without recognising the likely fatal effects of the
combination of the drugs".