Drugs caused sophomore’s death

The death of Andre Narcisse ’12 in November was an accident caused by multiple drugs, a representative from the Connecticut Medical Examiner’s Office said Thursday.

University spokesman Tom Conroy offered “our deepest sympathy” to Narcisse’s family and friends upon hearing the news Thursday.

Andre Narcisse ’12 at his graduation from Phillips Exeter Academy in 2008.
Vikas Velagapudi
Andre Narcisse ’12 at his graduation from Phillips Exeter Academy in 2008.

“The Yale community will continue to mourn his tragic passing and remember his selfless contributions to the life of the campus,” Conroy said in an e-mail. He added that counseling and other services are available to students.

On the morning of Nov. 1, Narcisse’s roommates found him unresponsive in his Branford College dorm room, and emergency responders pronounced him dead that morning. Branford Master Steven Smith said knowing the cause of Narcisse’s death brings some relief and a sense of closure.

Citing office policy, an assistant to the medical examiner said she could not disclose what drugs were involved. According to state regulations, officials are only required to release that information to family members and law enforcement officials.

Members of Narcisse’s family could not be reached for comment Thursday.

“As a parent myself, my concern is for the family and their suffering,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said in an e-mail Thursday night.

Narcisse’s death certificate does not list any underlying conditions that may have been a contributing factor. Authorities never suspected foul play.

It has taken more than 100 days for the cause of death to be released, after repeated postponements by the Medical Examiner’s Office. The office originally said toxicology tests could take six to eight weeks. When eight weeks passed, an official at the office changed the estimate to 12 weeks. In the end, it took 14.

John Sinard, vice-chairman of the state’s Committee on Medicolegal Investigations, told the News earlier this week that 90 percent of toxicology cases are resolved within 90 days. But he added that there could be many reasons for a further delay, including inadequate staffing, other priorities or simply the complex process of toxicology.

Forensic security consultant and retired New Orleans police detective Larry Williams Sr. said, while he is not familiar with Narcisse’s autopsy specifically, the medical examiner’s findings could refer to illicit drugs as well as alcohol or prescription drugs, which have powerful psychoactive effects on the body, especially when used in combination with other narcotics.

“Especially in college, people take uppers to stay awake and study and then downers to relax and go to sleep,” Williams said. “Then you get into a dangerous cycle between the two, and the body can’t handle the mix.”

He added though that college students also experiment with illegal substances at higher rates than adults, so no possibility can be ruled out without knowing the exact substances.

Narcisse’s friends said the community should focus on his life.

“The manner of Andre’s death is unimportant,” Nick Simmons-Stern ’12 said. “What matters is the quality of his life.”

Council of Masters Chair Jonathan Holloway urged Yale students to offer support to those who were closest to Narcisse, and said he hopes others learn from the tragedy.

“We all hope and pray that something good comes out of it,” he said. “We hope it’s not just wind blowing through, that it’s not just forgotten about.”


  • alum

    Would it be inappropriate for the YDN to interview his friends and roommates? Surely they have some insight on what killed Andre.

  • Yale ’08

    And after all the angry complaints on these comments board after the YDN made a tacit connection between his death and the recent Safety Dance/Liquor Treating/Rise in Alcohol Poisoning on Campus…

    I hope this serves as a wake up call to Yale College as a whole.

  • saybrook997

    About five classmates die before each graduation–usually accidental, or liquor/drug related accidents/trauma/falls/auto.

    Some have fallen out of dorm windows or climbing between them. I know one who nearly did. Beer and lack of imagination of consequences would have been the cause.

    What I’ve learned: Don’t sweat the little mistakes or losses; just try to avoid the big mistakes. The small ones can be reworked.

  • marcz

    Andre was an adult. He took too many illegal hard drugs and died of an overdose. A tragic end to a promising life. There is no one to blame but Andre himself. Every adult needs to take personal responsibility for their actions. Yale, New Haven or society are not to blame. Prosecute those who sold or gave Andre the drugs and end it there.

  • Yale ’10

    Yale ’08, I will agree with you that this should serve as a wake up call to Yale students to not use illicit drugs like cocaine and whatever else Andre was on–these substances are dangerous, especially when mixed. But to link Andre’s death to alcohol consumption on campus is irresponsible. He didn’t even participate in liquor treating on the night of his death, so surely you cannot blame that.

  • yalemom

    I will continue to pray for Narcisse’s family. That they may find peace and closure.

    I will also continue to beg the Administrators to commit to a safer future for parents and students by enforcing the laws set by Yale on drinking and drugs.

    Why have laws if you will not follow them?

    I hope this will live for a long time in the hearts and minds of all responsible adults at Yale!

  • @Yale ’10

    There is nothing irresponsible about making that connection. Andre died of from a combination of drugs, not just cocaine alone during a period of heightened drug use, binge drinking and overdoses.

    Mentioning Liquor Treating and other alcohol-fueled events does not mean that Andre participated in those per se. But since he died of drugs in combination, we should recognize how excessive alcohol drinking in very open social settings can exacerbate other recreational drugs.

  • @ #6

    I will also continue to beg the Administrators to commit to a safer future for parents and students by enforcing the laws set by Yale on drinking and drugs.
    I will do the same. Further, Yale should investigate who is supplying student drugs. Do you recall the shooting incident at Harvard last May? The drug dealers actually gained access (from their Harvard friends) to the basement of the dorm to sale drug …

  • yalemom2

    I only wish all Narcisse’s friends, roommates, suitemates, classmates look back and find if they could haven done something to prevent this tragic accident. As a parent, I would like to believe my son is surrounded by caring friends.

  • @ yalemom

    Yalemom, your comments about enforcing drinking laws are shortsighted and ignorant. If Yale begins penalizing those who are caught drinking, students will stop bringing classmates and roommates with alcohol poisoning to the hospital for fear of repercussions. Strict alcohol policies will literally cause the deaths of many more students than they will save, it’s as simple as that.

  • @10

    Strict alcohol policies will literally cause the deaths of many more students than they will save, it’s as simple as that.

    Underage drinking is against law. It is as simple as that. How many previous lives have to be lost before you sober up?

  • @10/11

    And, unless Yalies are inflexible morons, they will, in turn, not allow themselves to get quite so drunk. There’s a strong case to be made that friends wouldn’t allow friends to get smash drunk if they were afraid of the repercussions. Your argument is simply a scare tactic to preserve the status quo. Yale’s drinking policy is an affront to law abiding citizens everywhere, and should not continue unless state drinking laws are radically altered.

  • SY ’10

    Andre did not die from alcohol use. In fact, no Yale student in recent memory has died from alcohol use, which implies to me that Yale’s alcohol policy is working at keeping students safe.

    As for hard drugs, like cocaine, as far as I’m aware, Yale does enforce the laws against them. So I’m not clear what the hullabaloo from the Puritan crowd on this comment board is about.

  • Yale10

    @ #12:

    Who cares what the law is!

    We’re talking about a classmate, a friend, and a fellow human being. We’re talking about his life, and so many others. All we should be discussing is how to keep each other healthy and safe — laws be d-mned. I don’t want to hear about the ultimate straw-man the “law abiding citizen”: the one who drinks a beer for enjoyment but never binges, the one who carries a gun for safety but never snaps.

    You are absolutely right that rules and laws influence how people act, but you are naive of college life in this country to the point of delusion if you think that strict enforecement will keep students from binging. Culture is not some flexible rod that can be bent and twisted by some holier-than-thou notion of the law.

    We can have intelligent discussion of what policies best protect each other, but your strident, almost religious, dogmatism is scary, and would come at the expense of more lives.

  • BR ’10

    Ah, we got some of our favorite –
    ‘but it’s the law, that’s why we have to follow all laws’ kind of people.

    1. Drinking is a generally rather normal activity, and college students drinking is certainly a part of the scene in every other continent. To expect international students to ‘sober up’ to follow the inane US laws seems silly.

    2. It’s actually not as easy as you make it sound – ie., being able to tell when someone is their limit.

    3. Yale’s policy makes a lot of sense – it’s not that drinking is normative behavior just at Yale for this age group, but it’s a pervasive part of normative young adult culture.

    4. This is also evidence why we shouldn’t let parents set policies. :)

  • saybrook997

    You guys! The alcohol age limit once was 18. It should be 19 or 20. Beer does not kill; shots kill. Don’t drink shots, and the most that happens is you’ll get sick or have to hold on to the floor to keep the room from spinning, and get over it.

    Politicians always go too far. Drunk driving = raise the drinking age from 18 to 21. Drive faster = raise the speed limit from 55 to 80 (which means 85-90 on the highways. No in between. A political push by students to lower the drinking age to 20 would prevail in Connecticut, and 19 could happen next.

  • logical critic

    Enforcement WILL cause clandestine drinking? There is no evidence of this until it happens. Until then, anyone who claims this is fabricating the facts. At best you can say you expect it, and explain why. You should not fake knowledge of the future.

  • Governance

    Some people want to be governed by an Outside Force; others by a Force Within themselves. This is an age-old debate not to be solved here. All the intelligence in the world is useless against intoxicants of whatever form.


  • @15

    Well I suppose you’ll be paying for your own education then? That’s very noble of you, and it has its benefits! At least then you won’t have to give your parents the modicum of respect that 4 years of expensive tuition should garner. Oh, that’s right… you want you cake and you want to eat it too.

  • BR’10

    @17 – Why, yes. You have many other schools with RA’s and enforcement mechanisms and we have comparisons. I assure you – those comparisons make Yale’s policy seem enlightened.

    @19 – The last comment was a joke. Though it leads to a broader point – that emotive needs to secure don’t necessarily secure, but instead are just that: emotive and illogical.

  • 2011

    The disturbing thing is that negative consequences (to anything, including alcohol) don’t really seem to discourage not-so-smart behavior. The tragic part about his death is that it seems so easily preventable to an adult. What is eerie is that most of my peers here seem to regard this simple cause+effect as a sort of bizarre mystery that is too scary to apply to them. Drugs, alcohol… all of it makes your parents nervous… maybe it’s OK to be a little more responsible than your peers sometimes.

  • @#17 By logical critic

    Think Prohibition.

  • Alum

    Here’s a suggestion–Yale should continue to follow its current policy with respect to drugs and alcohol, but institute more Friday classes and link class attendance to grades.

  • nudelman

    “The manner of Andre’s death is unimportant,” Nick Simmons-Stern ’12 said. I couldn’t disagree more. A promising young man died from something that could have been prevented. The community should look into how this tragedy happened and try to learn something from it. If he died from a prescription drug use, we should raise awareness about potential dangers of misusing them. Sweeping the death under the rug helps no one.

  • you don’t know

    Face facts; the cause of Andre’s death was not simple alcohol poisoning. It was a terrible combination of a number of other factors, and so arguing that his death is a reason to dramatically change Yale’s alcohol policy is counterproductive.

  • Alum

    The only thing to prevent such tragedy in the future is a successful lawsuit against Yale University administration, including the Dean of the College, for amounts to criminal negligence in turning a blind eye to the endemic culture of illegal drug/alcohol activity on its property. I hope Andre’s parents consider this option – for sake of Andre and all future Yale underclassmen.

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