Toxicology report released following Keystone marijuana suicide
The Summit County Coroner’s office released a toxicology report this week following the suicide of a Keystone visitor last month. In March, Luke Goodman, 23, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, shocking both friends and family.
The family pointed to large amounts of edible marijuana as the cause. The toxicology report showed that Goodman had THC in his system, but not at a level considered legally impaired. Family and friends declined to comment.
“He was the happiest guy in the world. He had everything going for him,” Goodman’s cousin, Caleb Fowler, told CBS4 Denver in March.
Goodman’s mother, Kim, blamed edibles he reportedly consumed earlier that day for his death.
“It was 100 percent the drugs,” she said. “It was completely because of the drugs — he had consumed so much of it.”
A witness told the Summit County Sheriff’s Office that Goodman had consumed four marijuana edibles before the incident, on Saturday, March 21. Fowler later told CBS4 that Goodman consumed two peach tart candies, then three more when they didn’t take effect. Each one contained 10 mg of THC, the recommended dose for an adult.
“Edibles are a bit more dangerous just because they do have a longer absorption period and a slower drop than smoking,” said Breckenridge Police detective Caitlin Kontak. “I think of it as a stacking sort of effect when people ingest more prior to the peak of the first edible.”
“A grAy area”
Summit County Coroner Regan Wood released Goodman’s toxicology results in April, showing Goodman tested positive for THC with a blood concentration of 3.1 nanograms per milliliter. While that figure is less than the level of THC to be considered legally impaired — at 5 nanograms per milliliter — it may not represent the full dosage Goodman initially had in his system.
“It’s really a gray area,” Wood said of the report, noting that several factors can affect the absorption of THC from edibles.
A 1973 report on the pharmacology of cannabis by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODOC) shows active THC levels in blood drop sharply within the first hour of absorption, with a half-life of 30 minutes. The half-life of the drug following the initial burst is much longer, at 56 hours.
“It’s relatively short-lived — not something that’s going to stay in the blood for a long time,” said George Behonick, a toxicologist with the American Institute of Toxicology, the lab that processed Goodman’s results. “It’s going to affect people differently. There is no across-the-board, cookie-cutter standard.”
With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, limited information on its effects and absorption is available. UNODOC reported doses of 40 to 60 milligrams of THC significantly impaired sequential thought — leading to disjointed sentences, for example — but the effects of marijuana at the individual level are still difficult to predict.
Fowler said that several hours after he consumed the candies, Goodman became jittery and incoherent, talking nonsensically.
“He would make eye contact with us but didn’t see us, didn’t recognize our presence almost. He had never got close to this point, I had never seen him like this,” Fowler said.
Goodman, who was staying in Keystone with his family, refused to leave the condo with them later that night. Summit County police were dispatched to the scene around 10 p.m., when Goodman turned a handgun he normally carried for protection on himself.
After being taken to Summit Medical Center, Goodman was flown to St. Anthony’s Lakewood Hospital, where he was kept on life support until he died on Tuesday, March 24.
Medication or method
Goodman’s death is the second linked to consumption of edibles in Colorado since marijuana was legalized for recreational use. In March of 2014, Wyoming college student Levy Thamba jumped from the balcony of a Denver hotel after consuming 65 milligrams of THC in a marijuana cookie, more than six times the recommended amount.
“That’s the challenge when somebody is using substances, is that their behavior becomes more unpredictable in that moment,” said Rocky Mountain Crisis Center CEO Bev Marquez. “From our perspective, any time that somebody has a mental illness, that if it’s not treated, hopelessness and impulsivity can put people at a higher risk of suicide.”
She said the center receives about 400 calls daily through their crisis hotline. Between March 24 and April 23, the hotline received 636 calls related to substance use.
“Substance use and mental health issues are co-occurring. People tend to self-medicate,” said Kathy Davis, program director for Mind Springs Health in Frisco. “It’s so much more socially acceptable to walk into a bar or use substances than to come into the crisis center, unfortunately.”
Neither Goodman’s family nor friends reported seeing signs of depression before the incident. Friends remembered him “full of joy and his big smile seriously lit up the room.”
“It was completely out of character for Luke … there was no depression or anything that would leave us being concerned, nothing like that,” Kim Goodman told CBS4.
Goodman’s family declined any further comment.
Factoring in firearms
The Colorado Hospital Association reported that from January 2014 to June 2014, 553 emergency room visits per every 100,000 were related to poisoning by hallucinogens or nondependent cannabis abuse.
“… However, without a full medical record review, we cannot determine with certainty whether marijuana was truly a causal or contributing factor,” the report added.
Summit Medical Center CEO Dr. Alan Dulit said that the hospital had seen an increase of ER reports related to marijuana toxicity.
“It’s such a new phenomenon, there really is not that much information on it yet,” Dulit said. “One of the best ways that we can reduce suicide regarding young men, is to reduce access to firearms.”
Countless reports link access to guns with suicide. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2013, more than 21,000 Americans committed suicide using a firearm, accounting for 51.5 percent of all suicides that year. Men were almost four times more likely than women to commit suicide, using deadlier means.
“There’s a lot of prevention that certainly can be done,” Marquez said. “We can make this a normal part of conversation like smoking or cancer, where treatment works.”
She suggested education, discussion and directing individuals to resources could help prevent suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8225 (TALK).
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