Renowned yoga teacher Michael Stone dies after drug overdose in Victoria — (CBC News)

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CBC News

Preliminary toxicology results suggest Stone had opioids, including fentanyl, in system when he overdosed

By Rhianna Schmunk, CBC News

Posted: Jul 23, 2017 2:51 PM PT Last Updated: Jul 24, 2017 5:54 PM PT

A renowned Buddhist teacher, yoga instructor and author died last week after taking “street drugs” in Victoria.

Michael Stone hosted seminars, retreats, conferences and workshops related to Buddhism across Canada and around the world. He also founded Toronto’s Centre of Gravity Buddism centre and authored several books.

In a statement released last Thursday, his wife, Carina Stone, and students revealed he’d been living with bipolar disorder and may have been trying to alleviate his symptoms when he died.

Stone was on his way to Victoria for a “routine” day trip on July 13 when he sought help, the statement said.

Stone turned to Buddhism, meditation and yoga to help alleviate symptoms of bipolar disorder, according to a family statement released after his death. (Michael Stone/Instagram)

“On the way into town, he called a substance abuse and addictions pharmacy, likely to ask for a safe, controlled drug to self-medicate,” it reads. “He was not a candidate.”

Stone eventually bought and took an unspecified “street drug,” the statement said. RCMP found him unresponsive around midnight after his wife reported him missing.

Stone was declared brain dead in hospital and died on July 16, having remained on life support for two days so his lungs and kidneys could be donated.

“Initial toxicology reports suggest inconclusively that he had opioids, including fentanyl, in his system,” the statement said.

An official toxicology report will take months because of a backlog caused by the ongoing overdose crisis in B.C.

Vigils honouring Stone took place in several cities in Canada and around the world over the weekend, including one in Vancouver on Sunday.

Stone grew ‘more desperate’: statement

Stone managed his mental health through Buddhism and yoga for years, but had sought medical help in recent months.

“He went to bed early. He ate a special diet … He saw naturopaths and herbalists and trainers and therapists,” the statement said. “As things worsened, he turned to psychiatry and medication as well. Balancing his meds was ever-changing and precarious.

‘Culturally, we don’t have enough language to talk about this. Rather than feel the shame and tragedy of it, can we find questions?’

– Stone family statement

“Unbeknownst to everybody, he was growing more desperate.”

The statement said Stone kept his condition private because he “feared the stigma of his diagnosis … [but] he was on the cusp of revealing publicly how shaped he was by bipolar disorder and how he was doing.”

The teacher spoke candidly about using drugs in his teen years and into his early 20s, giving an interview in 2011 about his experimentation with magic mushrooms and LSD.

Stone taught seminars and hosted workshops across Canada before his death. (Michael Stone/Facebook)

He said he eventually stopped using psychedelic drugs, turning to meditation instead.

Stone had three children — one from a previous relationship and two with Carina, who is pregnant with the couple’s third child.

“It may be hard to put one’s mind into his, to imagine how he could take such a risk with a young family, baby on the way … It could be easy to shake one’s head and think, what a shame,” the statement said.

“Culturally, we don’t have enough language to talk about this. Rather than feel the shame and tragedy of it, can we find questions? … What can we do for ourselves and others who have impulses or behaviours we cannot understand?”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to support Stone’s family members, who live on B.C.’s Gulf Islands.

“Michael was loved for his brilliant mind and generous heart,” a statement said. “He was loved immeasurably. He continues.”

Between January and April, 368 people died of an illicit drug overdose in the province. Fentanyl was detected in 72 per cent of those deaths and 82 per cent of fatalities were men.

Victoria saw the third-highest number of deadly, fentanyl-related overdoses, following Vancouver and Surrey.