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Coroner's warning after MDMA and alcohol causes death of Hamilton man

Newshub logo Newshub 14/10/2021 Mark Quinlivan
Watch: MDMA soaring in popularity in New Zealand. © Video - Newshub; Image - Getty Images Watch: MDMA soaring in popularity in New Zealand.

The death of a 23-year-old Hamilton man was caused by cardiac failure brought on by a dangerous combination of MDMA and alcohol, a coroner says.

Piripi Raha Turaki Parker died at a friend's home in Hamilton on December 15, 2019.

Coroner Matthew Bates says Parker's death was the result of acute cardiac failure - against a background of recreational methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, and alcohol use. 

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According to the coroner's findings, Parker left his home at 5pm on December 14 to meet up with friends.

When he said goodbye to his wife, whom he'd only been married to a week, nothing seemed amiss and Parker appeared happy.

His wife said he had not had any alcohol or taken any drugs before leaving that she was aware of.

Sometime later, after spending between three and four hours drinking with friends, Parker told his friends he was going to get some "weed".

"He left the friend's house alone, returning approximately two hours later. Upon his return, Mr Parker informed his friends that he had just had six lines of cocaine," Bates' findings said.

The coroner said one of Parker's friends, Sean Edwards, started to notice him becoming sleepy.

Edwards sat with Parker and talked to him for between 15 and 20 minutes, the coroner said, and "reported that although Mr Parker was engaging in conversation, he seemed 'really wasted.'"

The coroner said Parker then grabbed his chest and began fitting, appearing to be having trouble breathing.

His friends put him in the recovery position and called 111, the coroner said.

"Ambulance staff arrived and attempted to resuscitate Mr Parker for 40 minutes. Unfortunately, he could not be revived and was pronounced deceased at the scene."

The forensic pathologist found the cause of death "acute cardiac failure secondary to cardiotoxic effects of MDMA and alcohol". Blood and urine sent for toxicology returned significant levels of both alcohol and MDMA.

"Alcohol when combined with MDMA extends or enhances the feeling of wellness from MDMA, however, the combination of alcohol and MDMA causes increased cardiac cellular stress and toxicity leading to heart-related toxicity," the pathologist said.

Coroner Bates said combining drugs such as MDMA with alcohol increases the risk of serious harm, and as it did in this case, can lead to death.

"In my view, given the prevalence of MDMA and alcohol use amongst some sectors of the community, it is appropriate to raise public awareness of these risks.

"The clear dangers of consuming certain recreational drugs, such as methamphetamine, are well-known, well-publicised and generally accepted. That is not necessarily the case with other recreational drugs, such as MDMA, also widely known as ecstasy.   

"Desired effects include increased energy and feelings of pleasure. However, MDMA can cause respiratory depression, somnolence, cardiac arrhythmia, coma and increases the risk of sudden death." 

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