'Lethal' dose in COG death

A 16-year-old Kamloops girl died from a “lethal level” of a stimulant at Kelowna's Center of Gravity festival last year, and the coroner has recommended that Interior Health offer drug testing at future events.

Coroner Adele Lambert completed an investigation earlier this year into the death of Adison Paige Davies last July. In the report, Davies was described as an “excellent student with no health concerns.”

At about 8:30 p.m. on July 27, 2018, Davies took a tablet of what she believed to be “ecstasy.” While ecstasy generally contains MDMA as its active ingredient, a range of associated stimulants can be present in pills thought to be ecstasy.

Davies' pill instead contained methylenedioxyamphetamine, or MDA, which the report describes as having “more stimulant and hallucinogenic properties" than MDMA. The pill contained a “toxic level” of MDA.

Shortly after taking the drug, Davies began to have difficulty breathing and experienced seizures, and medical professionals at the festival began treating her. Within 20 minutes, she had become unresponsive. Eighty-six minutes after taking the pill, she was pronounced dead at Kelowna General Hospital.

"Autopsy revealed pulmonary edema and congestion which was consistent with a death due to seizure and cardiac arrest," Lambert's report states.

“(MDA) has a stimulant effect with a risk of leading to a sudden increased demand on the coronary arteries which supply the heart muscle, potentially resulting in any one of a number of cardiovascular emergencies."

In light of Davies' death, the BC Coroners Service recommends Interior Heath provide drug checking and harm reduction information at future events.

"Interior Health supports the recommendation that drug checking and general harm reduction services be available at all mass gatherings where illicit-substance use is a known risk," said Dr. Silvina Mema, Interior Health medical health officer. "From our perspective, these services need to include technologies that test for fentanyl and other substances."

The AIDS Network Kootenay Outreach and Support Society has been providing comprehensive drug testing at festivals like Shambhala for years, but Center of Gravity has never offered the service.

Last summer, downtown Kelowna's Living Positive Resource Centre offered drug testing a few minutes from the festival grounds, with funding from IH. The service wasn't well known though, and they only tested two samples during the festival weekend.

Candice Berry, executive director at the LPRC, told Castanet they weren't allowed to hand out naloxone kits, used to reverse opioid overdoses, inside the festival grounds.

Center of Gravity announced earlier this year it would not be returning in 2019, but they added they hoped to back in 2020.

"Interior Health medical health officers have since been working closely with Centre of Gravity to incorporate harm reduction and drug checking services in future events," said Dr. Mema.

The BC Centre on Substance Use supported drug testing at festivals across B.C. in 2018, and of the 180 samples they tested that were expected to contain MDMA, 15 contained MDA, and one had both MDA and MDMA.

Before her death, Davies was on track to graduate high school early, and she had been accepted into a psychology and sociology program at Thompson Rivers University. Her parents said she was planning on pursuing a career in medicine. A GoFundMe page raised more than $16,000 to help support Davies' family.

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