A man who died in a Doncaster hostel was poisoned by a super-strength illegal drug sometimes nicknamed ‘Dr Death’.
Experts say the Ecstasy-style drug PMA – Para-Methoxyamphetamine – is rarely seen in South Yorkshire, but there have been several deaths in other parts of the UK already this year.
Peter Robert Liversidge, aged 37, was found dead in his room at the Town Moor bail hostel on Christ Church Road in January 2012 but a pathologist could not detect a cause of death until body samples were analysed.
Toxicologist Stephen Morley told the Doncaster inquest that tests showed up the PMA, which is an ‘unusual’ drug taken for its hallucinogenic effects, similar to LSD.
Dr Morley said it affects the heart and brain and can cause sudden cardiac arrhythmia and death.
“The most likely cause of death is PMA,” he said. “He doesn’t need to have taken lots of tablets. They can be for recreational use.
“When he bought it he may well have thought it contained amphetamine – it would be unusual if he knew it contained PMA. He may not have known he had taken PMA,” Dr Morley said.
A post-mortem examination could show no cause of death, but PMA toxicology was considered the most likely cause.
Mr Liversidge, who had spent time in prison, had been a resident at the Town Moor bail hostel since November 2011 and was on a Drug Intervention Programme.
Assistant Coroner Geoffrey Saul said he was given opiate blockers as part of his treatment but asked to stop taking it as soon as he could.
The night before he died he was in contact with his family and returned to the hostel ‘a little the worse for wear with alcohol’, but he was in a good mood when he went to his room.
He was found unresponsive by staff at 7.30am the next day and there was no evidence of intentional self harm.
Mr Saul said it was ‘very rare’ to come across PMA toxicity as a cause of death.
“There is speculation that it may have been Ecstasy ‘mispackaged’, as it were, and it would have an effect.
“I am not going to bring in a verdict that he took his own life because I don’t think he did. He had a good night out and seemed to have a job possibility on the horizon. It looks to me that he died accidentally as a result of taking one or two tablets.”
PMA is also known as ‘pink Ecstasy’ and is sold to revellers for as little as £3 a pill. It is said to give people an energy buzz that makes them feel more alert.
Although it resembles Ecstasy it can be five times stronger, and several people in the north-west have died from it since last summer.
Mr Saul recorded a narrative verdict that Mr Liversidge died accidentally in his hostel room of PMA toxicity.