Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Heath Ledger's Death Ruled Accidental

As one who at one time was on various anti-depressants and two types of sleeping pills (to offset the insomnia side effects of the anti-depressants) at the same time, I unfortunately can see how an accidental overdose could happen. One anti-depressant in particular made it nearly impossible for me to sleep without both types of sleeping pills (and on occasion, alcohol too) and the lure of a self-prescribed stronger dose to get needed sleep was attractive. If drugs are taken together - especially if different doctors have prescribed some of the medications without knowledge of other drugs for which you have prescriptions - the combination can be fatal as in this unfortunate case. Often, people underestimate the importance of telling your doctor EVERY medication you are on or might likely take while taking the prescribed drugs. Heath Ledger's death is a tragic loss. Hopefully, people - including gays coming out of the closet and on strong anti-depressants like I was - will be more careful in combining drugs in the future. Here are some story highlights (

NEW YORK (AP) - Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose of painkillers, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medication and other prescription drugs, the New York City medical examiner said Wednesday. The cause of death was "acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine," spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said in a statement.

The drugs are the generic names for the painkiller OxyContin, the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and Xanax, and the sleep aids Restoril and Unisom. Hydrocodone is a prescription painkiller. Borakove wouldn't say what concentrations of each drug were found in Ledger's blood, or whether one drug played a greater part than another in causing his death. "What you're looking at here is the cumulative effects of these medications together," she said.
In a statement released through Ledger's publicist, the actor's father, Kim, said Wednesday: "While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy. Heath's accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage."

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