The deadly danger of smoking synthetic cannabis has again been revealed. Findings from Rotorua Coroner Dr Wallace Bain, released to the Rotorua Daily Post today, point to synthetic cannabis provoking a heart condition that killed a synthetic cannabis smoker. Since the middle of 2007, cases of people collapsing in "zombie" states have periodically kept emergency services busy. The latest case comes after figures reveal more people than originally suspected are dying from synthetic cannabis and the Government moves to slap harsher sentences on those who use and deal it. Kelly Makiha reports.
Tokoroa man Rua Tangimama smoked synthetic cannabis with his partner, fell asleep and never woke up.
A coroner has now ruled the illegal drug could have been a significant provoking factor in his death.
The release of the coroner's findings come after figures reveal the number of people dying from synthetic cannabis is now higher than originally thought.
More than 65 people are now thought to have died from synthetic drugs, says the Chief Coroner.
The Drug Foundation is also urging the Government to act more quickly to introduce a multi-agency early warning system that could prevent more deaths.
In November, the number of deaths linked to toxic synthetics was 45-50 since June 2017.
That figure has now jumped to 60-65, with potentially more.
The findings into the death of Tangimama, 47, have just been released to the Rotorua Daily Post .
Rotorua Coroner Dr Wallace Bain found that Tangimama died on June 27, 2018, from a heart condition, but as noted by the pathologist, the synthetic cannabis in his blood could have been a significant provoking factor into the cause of his death.
The finding said Tangimama smoked synthetic cannabis with his partner on June 27, 2018, before falling asleep.
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She woke about 8.30pm to find Tangimama lying on the floor of the caravan in which they lived. She didn't disturb him and left to visit her brother, who also lived on the campsite.
The findings said she returned 15 minutes later and tried to wake Tangimama but he was unresponsive.
She ran back to her brother to get help and they called an ambulance, but he never regained consciousness, the finding said.
A toxicology report confirmed there was THC in Tangimama's blood, indicating he had smoked cannabis. It also showed there was 5F-ADB acid, which is a dangerous chemical used in synthetic cannabis that has been reported in previous coronial cases since mid-2007.
Coroner Bain noted previous comments from coronial cases involving deaths related to synthetic cannabis, including one that said users can die from a cardiac event induced by synthetic cannabis if they did not get medical help quickly.
They can also die from being in a comatose state and chocking on their own vomit or can suffer a fatal brain injury, the previous coronial cases noted.
Coroner Bain has reiterated expert evidence from Dr Paul Quigley from previous coroner's findings that efforts should be made to inform users and their families and associates of the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids and the need to get help immediately if someone collapses.
He also endorsed Dr Quigley's advice for families or associates of users to immediately shake or attempt to rouse anyone who collapses after smoking the drug.
Coroner Bain reiterated Dr Quigley's advice that the person should be put in the recovery position and a call for help made without delay.
A bill has been introduced to Parliament that will increase penalties for makers and suppliers of synthetic drugs while giving police more discretion to deal with users.
The bill also makes Class A drugs of the two main synthetics, 5F-ADB and AMB-Fubinaca.
In December, Coroner Mike Robb ruled the death of Rotorua man Nia John Taoho was related to synthetic cannabis.
His two sons continued to smoke synthetic cannabis to the point of needing emergency services help twice in the hours after he died, the coroner's findings revealed.
In November last year, Coroner Robb also released the findings into two other deaths in the region linked to synthetic cannabis. They were Taupō man Isaiah Terry McLaughlin and Shannon James Thomas Coleman-Fallen from Rotorua.