Since it is alleged that Whitney Houston may have died from a lethal combination of prescripton drugs, I’ve decided to do a review of celebs that have died in a similar manner, because it seems as though it happens all too often. I hope this becomes a lesson to everyone to educate themselves on their medications so that similar accidents don’t happen to them… Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight and Brokeback Mountain died in January 2008 at the age of 28 from a combination of pain killers (oxycodone and hydrocodone), anxiolytics or sedatives (alprazolam, diazepam, temazepam) and an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine used for sleep (doxylamine). All of these medications cause respiratory depression and, when combined, can be deadly. Anna Nicole Smith: This former Playboy Playmate and television personality passed away in February 2007 at the age of 39 from taking a lethal combination of sedatives: chloral hydrate and several benzodiazepines (clonazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, and diazepam). She also had diphenydramine, an antihistamine, and topiramate, and anticonvulsant, in her system. The doses of each agent alone does not cause death; however, the combination causes profound respiratory depression and death. Brittany Murphy: The Clueless and 8 Mile star perished at the age of 32 in December of 2009. Although pnuemonia and iron deficiency anemia were primary causes, the deadly combination of the prescription and OTC medications that she was taking for her ailment cannot be ruled out. She had high levels of hydrocodone (for cough and chest pain), acetaminphen (for fever), chlorpheniramine (an antihistamine for runny nose), and L-methamphetamine (possibly from the decongestant pseudoephedrine). Pimp C: Chad Lamont Butler, one of the founders of the Houston, Texas rap group UGK, died in December 2007 at the age of 33 from respiratory depression after ingesting an overdose of promethazine and codeine syrup–colloquially known as “sizzurp.” He also had sleep apnea. Jimi Hendrix: The popular 60’s guitarist and musician died in September 1970 at the age of 27. He choked on his own vomit after ingesting nine tablets of a sleep medication that contained the barbaturates secobarbital and brallobarbital and the antihistamine hydroxyzine along with red wine. Michael Jackson: The “King of Pop” died in June 2009 at the age of 50. Citing continuous sleep problems, he was given an overdose of the anesthetic propofol along with the benzodiazepines lorazepam, diazepam, and midazolam by his personal physician. This caused him to go into cardiac arrest. Gerald Levert: The R&B singer and son of Eddie Levert of the 70’s group The O’Jays died in November 2006 of acute intoxication. He ingested a deadly combination of the pain medications oxycodone, hydrocodone, and propoxyphene (which all also contain acetaminophen), alprazolam, and two different antihistamines. He was 40 years old. Elvis Presley: The “King of Rock and Roll” died in August 1977 at the age of 42. Although there are many unanswered questions about his untimely death, polypharmacy–or taking multiple medications at the same time–cannot be ruled out. On autopsy, it was discovered that he had fourteen different medications in his system, including several barbiturates.
What are some lessons to be learned from these scenarios?
DO NOT take alcohol while on medications for sleep, anxiety, depression, or any OTC medications. DO NOT take more than the recommended or prescribed dose of any medication. If you have questions about a dose, please ask your pharmacist. DO stick to one pharmacy to get your prescription medications. The pharmacist will know what you take and will be able to tell you if there are any major interactions with your medications. DO Tell the pharmacist of you are taking any OTC medications. If in doubt as to what OTC med to take when you are sick, ask the pharmacist. They will be able to give you the appropriate OTC medications that are least likely to interact with your prescription drugs. DO educate yourself on any pre-existing conditions. Know what drugs or medications are contraindicated with that ailment. DO NOT “sip on sizzurp” for recreation!
I hope this helps everyone. Stay Healthy!