Carisoprodol (Soma) news

Another Fayette wrestler’s death tied to prescribed drugs

The circumstances of the deaths of wrestler Chris Benoit and his family have stirred much attention locally and nationally in past weeks. So has the funneling of prescription medication to Benoit by Carrollton physician Dr. Phil Astin.

Added to the local list was the February 2006 death of another wrestler, Tyrone resident Michael Durham.

Though ruled accidental, Durham had been turned away from a local pharmacy for trying to have too many prescriptions filled, including some written by Astin. Levels of a muscle relaxer found in Durham’s blood had the potential to be toxic.

Durham’s death occurred Feb. 15, 2006. Tyrone police responded to a call at the Senoia Road residence of a friend, fellow wrestler Eric Zinck, according to Tyrone police reports.

Officers found Durham lying in a hallway of the mobile home near the front door. A subsequent check for signs of life by Fayette EMS found none.

Durham lived in Peachtree City but had been staying at his friend’s home because he was going through a divorce, according to reports.

Also found at the scene was a prescription for 120 tablets of 350 milligrams of carisprodol, a substitute for the muscle relaxer Soma, that was filled one day before his death, according to reports filed by Det. Dean Johnson.

The pill bottle was empty, reports said. The drug had been prescribed by Astin, Tyrone Police Public Information Officer Brandon Perkins said Monday.

Another prescription drug belonging to Durham was found at the residence. The drug, 120 tablets of 2 milligrams of alprazolam, a generic form of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, had been prescribed on Jan. 3.

Officers found one pill in the bottle, reports said. That drug had been prescribed by another physician.

Commenting Monday, Perkins said Tyrone police contacted the local Eckerd pharmacy two days after Durham’s death and was told that Durham had been getting a lot of prescriptions filled and had subsequently been turned away.

Concerned, Det. Johnson turned the prescription information over to a state regulatory agency dealing with those matters but did not receive a follow-up call, Perkins said.

Ruled accidental, Durham’s death was due to coronary artery atherosclerosis, blockage of the blood vessels to the heart, and to morbid obesity, according to autopsy reports issued by Assistant Medical Examiner Keith Lehman. The autopsy also revealed severe enlargement and scarring of the heart.

Toxicology tests revealed the presence of the muscle relaxer Soma “at levels higher than expected for therapeutic dosing and in a range with potential to have been toxic,” the report said. “Examination of Mr. Durham’s medications revealed many more carisoprodol (Soma) pills missing that would have been expected if he had taken the medication as instructed.”

Toxicology reports also noted hydrocodone in Durham’s blood at a level consistent with a therapeutic level, even though he was not known to have been prescribed hydrocodone. “The hydrocodone would have contributed to the toxicity of the carisoprodol and (its breakdown product) meprobamate. The combined effects of these drugs would have likely resulted in toxicity and probably contributed to the death, although the drug toxicity would not be expected to have been fatal by itself in the absence of heart disease,” the report concluded.

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