Kamis, 07 Februari 2008

Heath Ledger?s death ruled an accidental overdose on prescription medication

The toxicology results are finally out for Heath Ledger, who passed away two weeks ago in his Manhattan apartment. The situation seemed curious in that Mary Kate Olsen was called four separate times by the masseuse who discovered Heath's body, and that she decided to summon her private security staff instead of calling 911 immediately. The scene was normal when police arrived, and sources say that the police arrived at the same time as the security people and that there was no time to clean up the apartment or remove contraband. No illegal drugs or any alcohol was found on the scene.

The autopsy was ruled inconclusive by the coroner shortly after his death. Now the tests are in, and the medical examiner reports that he died from a fatal accidental combination of the very prescription drugs in his apartment, which were said to have been nearly-full pill bottles. Heath admitted in an interview late last year that he took Ambien to help him sleep after he developed insomnia during the grueling preparation for his role as the Joker in the upcoming Batman movie. He seems to have been trying to recover from anxiety and a sleep disorder, and in his haste to get better he died from a fatal drug interaction.

Heath took two kinds of sleeping pills and two kinds of anti anxiety medication and two painkillers one over the counter. It sounds like it was the combination of those particular medications, not the amounts, that killed him:

Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs that included painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication, the New York City medical examiner said Wednesday.

"Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine," medical examiner's spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said in a statement.

The drugs are the generic names for the OxyContin painkiller, the anti-anxiety drug Valium, Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, and the sleep aids Restoril and Unisom. Hydrocodone is another name for ibuprofen. (note by Celebitchy: the source was incorrect. Hydrocodone is a prescription painkiller.)

[From The Canadian Press]

I had terrible lyme disease, like completely debilitating, when I lived in Connecticut. I am fine now, but I was wheelchair bound for months and was sick for about two years. I would see doctors who had no idea what to do with me so they would all prescribe medication. Once I went to the emergency room for extremely slurred speech after taking a new medication prescribed to me by a doctor who knew what I was already on, and all my prescriptions were filled at the same place where they supposedly have a system to check. The hospital staff couldn't figure out what was wrong and sent me home after a few hours, and my speech improved when I was there. The exact same thing happened the next day at the same time, so I googled the new medication I was on and figured out that it was interacting with something else. When I called the neurologist, he was like "oh yeah, you shouldn't take those two together," even though he should have already known what I was on. My rambling point is that I learned how dangerous it is to combine medication, even under doctor's orders.

Like Matt Lauer, I can say psychiatric drugs have immensely helped people I know. I have also known people who have abused prescription painkillers. Doctors need to take more time with patients to make sure they know what they are taking before they prescribe something new, and the drug industry needs to take responsibility for their massive marketing blitzes and start to educate patients about the judicial use of medication. Dosages should also start low and gradually be increased to therapeutic levels. Maybe Heath's tragic death will help bring about some much-needed reforms in the way that prescription drugs are monitored and used in our society.

Heath Ledger's remains are now in his hometown of Perth, Australia, where his ex girlfriend, Michelle Williams, and two year-old daughter, Matilda, have arrived to attend a private service for the late actor. It is unknown if he will be buried or cremated, and the details of the funeral have not been given to the public.

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