The Herald Bulletin

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Local News

August 31, 2010

Middletown woman’s death not from Spice

Coroner: Overdose is to blame, but not synthetic marijuana

ANDERSON, Ind. — A Middletown woman’s death was not caused by synthetic marijuana, despite widespread media accounts and subsequent efforts by local and state government officials to ban the widely available products referred to as Spice or K2.

“It is not the cause of death,” Madison County Coroner Ned Dunnichay said Tuesday after receiving toxicology results from the autopsy of Lilly Helsley, 29, of Middletown.

Dunnichay said Helsley died from an accidental overdose he termed “mixed drug intoxication.” He classified the drugs found in her system that were responsible for her death as prescription depressants.

Helsley died at Saint John’s Medical Center on July 30, and people who knew her said her death occurred after she smoked Spice.

Some Indianapolis media accounts were quick to point to the products as culprits in Helsley’s death. One headline on an Indianapolis television website reads: “Mother dies after smoking Spice.”

“I just wish they would have waited and gotten the final cause of death from our office before they speculated,” Dunnichay said.

Products such as Spice still pose a danger, Dunnichay said. “It ought to be regulated somehow,”  he said. The products are legal in most states and localities and are not regulated by agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration.

Since Helsley’s death, at least three Indiana counties — including Helsley’s home of Henry County on Aug. 27 — have banned the sale of such substances. The products are sold locally in smoke shops and in some convenience stores, and typically marketed as incense. At least eight states have banned sale of the products.

Less than two weeks after Helsley’s death, state Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said he planned to pursue state laws against Spice and similar products, and he would request a study of the topic by the General Assembly’s Commission on the Courts.

“Whether or not it is considered in summer study, I intend on proposing legislation to control the substance in order to prevent further tragedies similar to the incident in Middletown,” Lanane in a statement on Aug. 12.

On Tuesday, he said the Commission on the Courts is scheduled to discuss Spice during a meeting on Sept. 23.

“It should be subject to some sort of control by the state,” Lanane said of Spice and similar products. “We’re mostly just interested in knowing more about the substance itself.”

Contact Dave Stafford: 648-4250,


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