The 24-year-old law student who was found dead in his New Jersey home Dec. 20 died from an accidental overdose of heroin and Adderall, according to the state’s medical examiner.
Third-year law student John Hroncich died from “acute intoxication due to the combined toxic effects of heroin and amphetamine,” more specifically Adderall.
Adderall is legally prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but substance abusers also use it to counteract the effects of heroin so they can take more of the illegal drug, director of the National Capital Poison Center Cathleen Clancy said. That practice, caused by the combination of stimulant and depressant drugs, is known colloquially as “speedballing,” she said.
“Either can cause you to die in different ways, but both can cause you to die,” said Clancy, who is also an associate professor at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Clancy said a person’s lethal dose of heroin depends on his or her history with the drug.
“When you start delving into street drugs, this is a huge problem,” Clancy said. “You’re exposing yourself to very potent chemicals and you don’t really know what dose.”
Excess fluids in Hroncich’s lungs deprived his body of oxygen, according to his autopsy report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, an adverse reaction associated with heroin use.
Hroncich would have received his law degree in May. Law school interim dean Gregory Maggs said last month at the student’s on-campus memorial that the school will recommend to the University that he receive the honor posthumously.
He earned his undergraduate degree in economics and political science at Rutgers University, finishing off his last three semesters there with a 3.93 grade point average.
Hroncich was remembered as an easy-going friend, brother and son committed to academics and driven to pursue a career in cybersecurity law.
“It was a surprise to all of us,” his father, William Hroncich, said last week. “This was a huge tragedy to the family.” He added that the family had not yet received an autopsy report from the medical examiner’s office.
Friends at the law school’s memorial service called him “Jersey Johnny,” and said the late student used to joke that he had more Amtrak points than Vice President Joe Biden because of how often he visited home.
Hroncich’s death comes one year after graduate student Benjamin Gupta died from a mix of alcohol and oxycodone, a prescription pain reliever. The 28-year-old JD and MBA candidate died in his sleep on Dec. 19, 2011.
Provost Steven Lerman wrote in an email that GW has “no plan to review the circumstances surrounding this tragic death, which occurred far from our campuses and during a University break.”
The University conducted a review and altered its alcohol amnesty policy in 2009 after sophomore Laura Treanor died from alcohol poisoning in Ivory Tower, pledging to step up its education about the dangers of drinking.
Deaths from drug overdose in the United States quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month.
The report showed that nearly 60 percent of drug-related deaths in 2010 involved prescription drugs, and three-quarters of those deaths involved opioids such as oxycodone and morphine.