Man's death due to accidental drug overdose

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 cannabis.

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".