Michael Hastings Toxicology Report Controversy

michael hastings autopsy

Michael Hastings’ autopsy report showed possible use of methamphetamine.

In response to the piece I wrote about the toxicology report of recently deceased Michael Hastings, some readers challenged my portrayal of the findings, more specifically, my assertion that drug abuse had something to do with him crashing his car. The report stated that “Toxicology shows a small amount of amphetamine in the blood consistent with possible intake of methamphetamine…unlikely to have an intoxicative effect at the time of the accident”.

In my article, I suggested that the side effects of taking methamphetamine – hallucinations, euphoria, grandiosity – would be consistent with driving his car at tremendously high speed at 5am in the morning. Anyone who knows anything about hard drug abuse knows that those side effects don’t just appear when using the drug. Methamphetamine, for example, has very serious effects when used over an extended period of time. According to the National Institutes of Health, users can exhibit symptoms that can include:

  • Severe inability to sleep (insomnia)
  • Major mood swings
  • Delusional behavior
  • Extreme paranoia

I want to be clear – I’m not categorically stating that Hastings was using methamphetamine – I am suggesting that from what we know, abuse of the drug is a far more likely story than him being assassinated by the Obama administration via remote control. It is true that the toxicology report was inconclusive about his use of meth, but the Los Angeles Cor­on­er’s of­fi­ce did deem it appropriate to note that what they found was ‘consistent’ with the intake of methamphetamine. I’m obviously not an expert in this but it stands to reason that they didn’t put it in there for fun.

One commenter wrote:

I’m indifferent to the conspiracy theory debate, but I’m a bit surprised by your lack of analysis of the actual toxicology report, for someone scolding others about journalistic responsibility. If I’m reading that tox report right (it’s a bit crappily scanned), the blood amphetamine levels from the chest were measured at .05 *micrograms* per mL, or 50 ng/mL, which is absurdly small. I, who took the two 5mg amphetamine pills my doctor prescribes me for ADHD daily this morning, would test at about this level. Clinical studies have estimated 10mg of oral amphetamine such as I take to be detectable in blood analysis for as long as 9 days (4.8 on average). And as far as I know, GC-MS testing distinguishes between meth and amphetamine, so it doesn’t seem likely any of the “extended meth use craziness” you’re suggesting is indicated by the facts, either. Chances are he just took a prescription Adderall tablet or few in the week prior. I’ve ingested 10mg of amphetamine today, but spent it quietly at my desk filling out tax forms and not running pantless into Accounting with a handmade weapon or anything, so I’m pretty sure you’re drawing a waaaaay over-broad conclusion here. Did he probably just speed into a tree without being conspiratorily murdered? Yeah, totally. But please don’t snark at others for their bending of facts to fit a narrative without bothering to do any math or research yourself.

I replied:

Hey, appreciate your lengthy and considered response to my piece. A couple of points – firstly, I’m not a toxicologist (and I’m presuming you aren’t either) so I defer to the report on the likelihood as to whether he was taking meth or not. The report says it’s unclear, but that it was a possibility. Also, please re-read the toxicology report. It states very clearly that “Toxicology shows a small amount of amphetamine in the blood consistent with possible intake of methamphetamine”

What makes it far likelier that he was on hard drugs (like meth) is that members of his family were attempting to get him to rehab in the days leading up to his death. We know that his affliction was serious enough that his brother flew out from NYC to help him. Hastings had a history of very serious drug abuse and was pretty open about it. He confessed to smoking crack in the past, abused alcohol, ritalin etc etc and his family stated they wouldn’t be surprised if cocaine was found in his system (it wasn’t).

Taking the personalities out of this, if a young man, whose family was on the way to get him rehab, was found dead in a high powered sports car with traces of amphetamines in his system, you’d probably suspect that drug abuse had something to do with the crash rather than government remote controlling his car.

I don’t really see how I’m being misleading or sloppy with the facts here. I’m not going to engage in armchair toxicology as that’s a pretty fast way to get into conspiracy land and I’d suggest you don’t do your own analysis and draw a conclusion either. Just stick to what we know. We know that Michael Hastings was using drugs as his family wanted to get him into rehab. We know that traces of amphetamine were found in his system and were consistent with the possible intake of methamphetamine. We know he was traveling at a very high speed to sustain the injuries he did. A sensible analysis would lead you to conclude that Hastings drug abuse was a factor in his death, regardless of whether he had adequate amounts in his system at the particular time.

I could be wrong of course – he may have just been speeding because he had a fast car, or he may have been killed by the government. I just think the physical evidence and the reports from his family point to a serious lack of judgment due to drug abuse. Either way, it’s still very sad and a great loss for journalism.

As a side note, I will accept that the headline we went with (“Sorry Conspiracy Theorists, Toxicology Report Shows Michael Hastings Was on Amphetamines”) could be interpreted as an explicit assertion that drug abuse was the cause of his crash. The point of my piece was to argue that the toxicology report bolsters the official account of Hastings’ death, and further debunks the nonsense that the US government used a joystick to send him into a tree at 100mph.

 

CORRECTION: I previously cited ‘Narconon.org’ for the side effects of Methamphetamine – which unbeknownst to me is a Scientology funded organization. While Narconon provided a completely medically accurate depiction of the symptoms long term meth users display, we’re not in the business of promoting Scientology so the article was edited to provide sourcing from a government funded organization, the National Institutes of Health.

  • Semanticleo

    http://www.laweekly.com/2013-08-22/news/michael-hastings-crash/

    He wanted to borrow a car because he felt his had been tampered with. What’s the phear wrt suspicious circumstance, afraid it reflects on Obama? Relax, he has no idea what’s going on.

  • Jon Hendry

    Narconon is Scientology-based nonsense, where their “rehab” program consists of introductory Scientology, megadoses of niacin, and saunas. Plus pressure to join Scientology.

    In Georgia they were raided by investigators due to suspicion of insurance fraud, fraudulent billing, etc.

    A number of ‘patients’ there have died in the last year.

    You really ought to find a better source.

    • Benthedailybanter

      Thanks for the heads up Jon. Updated the article with sourcing from a government funded medical site. It was medically completely accurate (I checked multiple sources and theirs was the most descriptive) but we’re definitely not in the business of promoting that insidious institution.

  • http://www.facebook.com/felonious.grammar Felonious Grammar

    …from what we know, abuse of the drug is a far more likely story than him being assassinated by the Obama administration via remote control.

    Yes. What planet are we on now, that this might be a controversial statement?

    It’s tragic enough that the man died in an auto accident— it was a violent and preventable death. Far too many people die this way. It’s most unfortunate that he killed himself (whether it was intentional or not) before he could get help.

    There is enough tragedy in his death. Using his death to create intrigue is a crappy thing to do.

  • MarshaCS

    I don’t buy a word of it. First, I take an amphetamine to counter allergic symptoms, hay fever, etc. They make me tired and hardly in a position to go speeding somewhere. Second, a thorough review of the auto which I only saw in photos on the net showed absolutely no damage to the front of the vehicle sufficient to cause the doors to buckle. They were easily opened after the fire was put out. Third, I have been unable to locate a single incident where this vehicle has exploded on impact. It’s amazing that the manufacturer seems to have been silenced as well. Fourth, his closest friends were interviewed following the “accident” and all indicated he would not be the person you would want to have the misfortune of being behind on any road because of how slow he drove. Fifth, it’s in extremely poor taste and indefensible that a medical examiner would find a very small quantity of amphetamine in the blood, and take the leap to “insinuate” that there may have been meth use.

    I don’t know of anyone who has suggested that it was Obama that had him assassinated, but inasmuch as the FBI had been stalking him, and that both the FBI and the CIA operate pretty much without oversight to accomplish their dirty deeds of which there are many, there’s no reason to exclude some operatives from either one or both to consider ways of silencing him for good.

    So until someone or some organization of unquestionable reputation is allowed to examine the evidence – all of it – I won’t believe that there was no foul play here.

    And again, I’m going to ask the same question I’ve asked hundreds of times already. If there was no foul play and if it was indeed just an accident, then why won’t the LAPD let anyone else review the evidence? They’ve done exactly that in hundreds if not thousands of other cases. Dr. Baden, Dr. Lee, as well as numerous other highly regarded medical examiners have debunked findings of many other poorly done autopsies. They should allow this one to be reviewed as well.

    • PinkamenaPanic

      Proof for your wild mass guessing?

      • blackdaug

        Well, he does take amphetamine to counter allergies…unlike say …antihistamine (that would “make me tired and hardly in a position to go speeding somewhere”)..which everybody else takes.

        I like a little heroin when I stub my toe.
        Tomato…tomato…I guess.

        • MarshaCS

          Thanks blackdaug for waking me up from my antihistamine. You’re right. I was confusing the two. I stand corrected.

  • blackdaug

    If his family were aware enough of his problem to be actively trying to get him back into rehab, then obviously he had been exhibiting some behaviour that drove them to do so.
    ….and given that people with drug problems tend to be pretty secretive about those problems, and his family was aware of them anyway, that behaviour could have been really …excessive.
    With amphetamine and or coke abuse, there is also drug induced psychosis which can result in behaviour that includes delusional grandiosity, manic episodes, and fearless action, brought on by lack of sleep. The drug would then only show up in low quantities depending upon how long it had been since it was last consumed.
    Given his family doesn’t seem to be surprised by his death in the manner described, that could be exactly what happened here.

    • http://www.facebook.com/felonious.grammar Felonious Grammar

      And withdrawal can cause strange behavior, as well.

      • blackdaug

        There was a song about a thousand years ago called “Weed, whites and Wine” I believe…. ironically about driving on all three.
        The combination is exhilarating, and makes one crave physical speed.
        4 a.m. , a few drinks, a little speed..a powerful car, a bump at an intersection.
        I really liked Hastings too, because he was fearless, but that personality trait, with the wrong circumstances….tragic.

        ed. Little Feat…”Willin”

  • Robert Scalzi

    Very well said Ben , Also his family was trying to get him to go back to Rehab after a long period of being “clean and sober” he relapsed , and many times a relapse is the precursor to an overdose or and accident related to the relapse.

    • Schneibster

      And this is not a coincidence; it’s because the user had previously built up a tolerance, and no longer has that tolerance because they have abstained for a long enough period, but still takes the same amount as before. This is part of the drug abuse pathology.

    • Benthedailybanter

      Thanks Robert – appreciate the kind words!