Legal Prescription Drugs Killed Star Heath Ledger

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Legal Prescription Drugs Killed Star Heath Ledger

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Feb 10, 2008 11:32 pm

The Salem-News (Feb-06-2008 15:13)

Legal Prescription Drugs Killed Brokeback Mountain Star Heath Ledger

Tim King

<span class=postbigbold>Heath Ledger's death has been ruled an accidental overdose of legal prescription drugs. His father believes it should serve as a wake-up call. </span>

<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img width=300 class=postimg src=bin/ledger_heath.jpg></td></tr></table>(SALEM, Ore.) - The father of Hollywood actor Heath Ledger is asking Americans to pay closer attention to the use of prescription drugs in the wake of a coroner's confirmation that the Brokeback Mountain star lost his life to an accidental overdose.

It is a truly desperate picture that we face as a society that attacks the use of natural medical treatments like medical marijuana, even going so far as to demonize the people who use it to seek relief from sickness and disease, while adopting and allowing slick potions hatched in dollar-driven laboratories to choke the life out of people.

While the federal government refuses to budge and recognize the individual rights of states on the matter, they have in recent years endorsed one new pharmaceutical drug after another with no thought at all toward public safety.

The people who allow these new practices at the government level are killers.

Because aside from Phen Phen diet pills, Vioxx and Oxycontin, the ones that out and out kill people, these doctors know that more people die from overdoses of the drugs they prescribe than anyone wants to know.

Tens of thousands of people lose their lives each year from complications that arise from pharmaceutical drugs they are legally prescribed.

Marijuana goes on with its illegal status. Doctors with half a brain know that medical marijuana is a safe bet. People who don't want to smoke it can use a vaporizer or they can eat it.

Heath Ledger's father stated through his son's publicist: "Heath’s accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage."

The statement was made just minutes after the chief Medical Examiner of New York, Charles Hirsch, confirmed the cause of death.

"Mr Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine," Hirsch said.

"We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications."

Well America, you can't die from an overdose of marijuana, it is physically impossible and that is a fact. If those who disagree can prove otherwise, contact the Marijuana Policy Project in San Francisco or the group NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and tell them you want the twenty five thousand dollar standing offer to anyone who can attribute a death to marijuana use.

One word for the wise is that when the anti-marijuana folks try to turn out information they are frequently dishonest, blatantly, because they are out of excuses, and they know there are real and true medical benefits in cannabis.

Like many in political power, they simply make it up as they go. One argument they wage is that some people who died had marijuana in their systems, but there is always something else that caused the death and marijuana happened to be in their systems as well.

So when you think about this young rising Hollywood star so promising and so vibrant, consider that the drugs and practices your federal government approves and stands behind undoubtedly had a hand in killing him.

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Accidental overdose killed Ledger

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Feb 11, 2008 1:32 pm

The Whig Standard wrote:Accidental overdose killed Ledger; Medical examiner says actor died from toxic mix of prescription pills

February 7, 2008
The Whig Standard

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 yesterday.

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 medical examiner's office only provided generic names, so it is unknown whether he took generic or brand-name drugs. Police had said they found six types of prescription drugs, including sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication, in Ledger's apartment.

Oxycodone is a painkiller marketed as OxyContin and used in other painkillers such as Percodan and Percocet; hydrocodone is used in a number of painkillers, including Vicodin.

Diazepam and alprazolam are the generic names for the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and Xanax, and the other two drugs are sleep aids commonly sold under the brands Restoril and Unisom.

While there was speculation and rumours about possible drug use such as cocaine and marijuana, none were found in his system.

Borakove would not 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.

The ruling comes two weeks after the 28-year-old Australian-born actor was found dead in the bed of his rented SoHo apartment. Police found bottles of six types of prescription drugs in his bedroom and bathroom, and a rolled-up $20 bill near the bed.

Ledger's family returned to the actor's hometown of Perth, Australia, on Tuesday to prepare for his funeral. Arrangements were private.

In a statement released through Ledger's publicist, the actor's father, Kim, said yesterday: "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."

Heath Ledger was discovered by his masseuse Jan. 22 after she arrived for an appointment that afternoon. She entered his bedroom to set up for the massage and found him unresponsive, and proceeded to call actress Mary-Kate Olsen - a friend of Ledger - three times over the next nine minutes before calling emergency services.

Ledger had been dead for some time and police say no foul play occurred.

Ledger, nominated for an Oscar for his role in Brokeback Mountain, had returned to New York from London, where he had been filming a $30 million Terry Gilliam film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, days before his death.

He said in a November interview that his roles in the Batman movie The Dark Knight and the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There had taken a toll.

"Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night," Ledger told The New York Times.

"I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going."

He said he had taken two Ambien pills, which only gave him an hour of sleep.

Copyright © 2008 The Whig Standard
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Prescription Drug Deaths Soar

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Feb 11, 2008 4:55 pm wrote:

Prescription Drug Deaths Soar
Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, February 07, 2008 11:38 AM EST

<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=300 src=bin/ledger_heath-wide.jpg></td></tr></table>Sometimes it takes "celebrity" to bring to light a national issue, in this case a chronic condition for many everyday Americans.

Heath Ledger's death on Jan. 22 was due to an accidental mixture of prescription drugs, New York City's Chief Medical Examiner has concluded.

The autopsy report on Ledger is now public record and counts six prescription drugs as the cause of his death including Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Diazepam, Temazepam, Alprazolam, and Doxylamine.

It is not likely a single doctor prescribed all of the drugs but rather that they were obtained from numerous sources.

"If someone has an overdose death with that kind of toxicology report, it's usually an indication that they were either doctor-shopping or purchasing medications either on the street or on the Internet," said Andrew Kolodny, a psychiatrist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn tells Reuters.

Oxycodone is a painkiller, Hydrocodone is also known as Vicodin, Diazepam is commonly called Valium, Temazepam treats anxiety or sleeplessness, Alprazolam is known as Xanax, and Doxylamine is a sedating antihistamine often used as a sleep aid.

It is suspected that the combination of drugs suppressed his respiratory system until Ledger stopped breathing.

Dr. Marc Galanter of NYU Medical Center tells CBS News, “It can be a deadly mix anytime and, you know, it creates a clouding of people’s alertness so they don’t know how much they’re taking.”

Writing to ABC News blog, a former addict says the problem is you don’t think there are limits. “YOU PEOPLE ARE MISSING THE POINT! the reason he [Ledger] had so many different prescription was because he wanted to get HIGH. i know because this is a laundry list of the drugs i took when i was an addict myself. you take the vicodin and oxy to feel good, then the benzos (xanax, valium) to smooth out the edges, and then some sleeping pills to get some rest afterwards. it wasn't a mistake where one drug didn't work so he got something else! its classic painkiller addiction. and YES, he doctor shopped and used multiple pharmacies, even addicts don't know their limits and never think they will OD.”

The actor was found dead in his Manhattan apartment January 22nd with the medication near his body. He had been complaining of anxiety, an inability to sleep, had recently traveled from overseas and reportedly had pneumonia.

A recent revelation by the mother of Britney Spears shows the singer also has a precarious relationship with prescription drugs. In a recent statement by Lynne Spears to a court, Spears says her daughter is being fed a combination of drugs –Adoral, Seroquel and Risperdol by her so-called manager who sometimes crushes them up in drinks and food.

According to the testimony, “He told us that he puts them in her food and that that was the reason she had been quiet for the last three days (she had been sleeping). He told us that the doctor who is treating her now is trying to get her into a sleep-induced coma so that they could then give her drugs to heal her brain.”

Britney was recently hospitalized in a psychiatric unit.

<table class=posttable align=right width=256><tr><td class=postcelll>
<span clas=postbold>LEARN MORE</span>
<ul class=postlist><li> Prescription for Danger media campaign for youth</li>

<li> FDA stats on drug deaths</li>

<li> Declaration of Lynne Spears</li></ul></td></tr></table>Ledger's family hopes his death shines a spotlight on a long under-reported issue – you are now more likely to die from prescription drugs than recreational ones.

A “pill for what ails you” from headaches to heartache and an underestimation of prescription drugs’ potency has led to a dramatic rise in lethal drug overdosing since the early 1990s.

The CDC reports that from 1999 to 2004, unintentional poisoning death from prescription drugs sleeping pills, antidepressants and tranquilizers grew 84 percent to 20,950 deaths, overtaking cocaine and heroin combined as the leading cause of lethal overdose.

The FDA compiled reports from 1998 to 2005 and finds that dangerous side effects and deaths from prescription and over-the-counter medications almost tripled to nearly 90,000 incidents.

Potent narcotic painkiller OxyContin was among the 15 drugs most often linked to death. Others include insulin, Vioxx, Remicade, and Paxil. Vioxx was removed from the market in 2004.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1998, a report finds that prescription drugs kill about 106,000 Americans each year – that’s three times as many as are killed by automobiles—making prescription drug death the fourth leading killer after heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Last year Journal of the American Medical Association puts death from all drugs, illegal and prescription, second only behind car accidents as a cause of death.

The rise in deaths coincides with the direct marketing of prescription medication to the public. Prescription drug sales have soared nearly 500 percent since 1990.

You don’t have to wait 30 seconds to see a drug ad on television or head one on the radio. Then there is the confusion that if it is prescribed it can’t be dangerous.

That’s what 46-year-old Lynn Ray thought. Ray is one of about 9 million Americans who use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.

46-year-old had recently lost her infant son and took a short course of treatment with tranquilizers.

But if she was supposed to take one Xanax over an eight-hour period, she’d take two or three to intensify the calming effect. Doctor-shopping followed while she fabricated different pain symptoms to get multiple prescriptions.

Ray had convinced herself that abusing prescription drugs was safer than abusing heroin, marijuana, and other "street drugs." "I would never do those," she says. "I figured I had a prescription for what I was doing, which made it OK."

Blogging to the New York Daily News, BJMoore17, who has worked in a hospital pharmacy for the last eight years sees it every day and writes, “…it is amazing to me the number of people that think it is okay to combine multiple drugs. They have no idea that it could harm them. That's why there are pharmacists in hospitals and pharmacists on the nursing units of hospitals. There is just so much risk in prescribing medications and the physicians do not know everything about medications. The physicians are there to diagnose, but they need a whole team of medical professionals to give the safe and proper care to every patient.”

Another writes that prescription drug abuse is rampant among teenagers who take pills from their parent’s medicine cabinet. “Maybe now people will realize this is a HUGE problem with teens all over the country, and not just the new 'in' of Hollywood. I am an 18 year old who hears every day about kids my own age talking about these same prescription drugs that are SO easy to get, whether from a parent, friend or direct from the doctor himself. Kids carry these 'Candies' in little containers to school and sell them in the halls between class!”

Every day it’s estimated 2,500 teens abuse a prescription pain killer for the first time.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that among 12th grade students, Vicodin is the most abused followed by amphetamines, tranquilizers and OxyContin (oxycondone).

Almost as if on cue, the White House Office of National Drug Control policy had been planning to unveil an ad campaign to target prescription drug abuse by teens.

But appearing too close to the death of Ledger, the ad campaign began on Super Bowl Sunday. #

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Prescription Drugs, Not Illegal Ones, Killed Heath Ledger

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Feb 22, 2008 1:09 pm

AlterNet wrote:Prescription Drugs, Not Illegal Ones, Killed Heath Ledger

By Scott Thill, AlterNet
Posted on February 14, 2008

<span class=postbigbold>The media pounced on his admitted love of weed and coke but did little to investigate the prescription drugs that did him in. </span>

"This would have never happened with weed".

I made that declaration for back in May 2007, when Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma pled guilty to criminal charges of misleading customers about the lethality of their product, promising to pay $600-plus million and be real good people going forward. But with the accidental overdose of Heath Ledger, the first sentence of this article is proving to be a tag line with serious staying power.

Last year was the latest in a series of banner years for Oxycontin, which kicked heroin and cocaine to the metaphorical curb to become one of the most popularly abused substances of the 21st century. Of course, it has been joined by painkillers like Vicodin, sleeping pills like Restoril, anti-anxiety poppers like Valium and Xanax, and even antihistamines like Unisom, all of which were found in Ledger's system during his autopsy. The official verdict, sent in written form by medical examiner spokeswoman Ellen Borakove, avoided marketing buzzwords in favor of designations more scientific, which is to say obscure: "Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine. We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications."

What's in a name, you ask? Oblivion. Wait until you hear the numbers.

According to a recent Associated Press analysis of Drug Enforcement Administration stats, retail access to these "accidental" killers has skyrocketed 88 percent since 1997, and you don't even need to ask about prescriptions, because doctors are dishing them out like mints. Consequently, a collaborative study from the University of Michigan and the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that teenage abuse of Oxycrack has risen 26 percent since 2002, while overall prescription drug abuse has tripled among teens since 1992. For those who know their immortal hip-hop well, that was the year N.W.A. soundtracker and rapper Dr. Dre scored crossover platinum with The Chronic, a highly influential album dedicated to the love of cannabis that made Snoop Dogg a superstar in his own right. Neither has yet to die of weed.

The irony is sweet and sour. And while I'm not sure if Heath Ledger was a fan of Dre and Snoop, he was certainly a fan of cannabis. I "used to smoke five joints a day for 20 years," he confessed on a hidden camera video that Entertainment Tonight bought and planned to air, but then reportedly pulled "out of respect" for Ledger's family. In the video, Ledger allegedly flirts with coke and openly admits to the problem it will cause Michelle Williams, who according to the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid New York Post had to lay down the law with the Brokeback Mountain and Batman star over his abuse of not just those drugs but heroin as well. Once the video was yanked, his family and business associates sighed with deep thanks and quickly condemned the former decision to air it as "shameful exploitation of the lowest kind."

But was it? Sure, airing footage of Ledger at a Hollywood coke party while he rhapsodizes about how much cannabis he used to smoke may not have been the most sensitive way for Entertainment Tonight to eulogize him. But an important point is being utterly missed: Coke, heroin and weed did not kill him. Prescription drugs did.

And while cocaine or heroin may have been able to do the trick had he kept abusing them, cannabis probably would have never been able to pull the trigger: No one in the history of medicine has ever died from an overdose of marijuana, according to evidence so far. Heath Ledger probably could have smoked 200 joints a day and not died of an overdose. He probably would have died of morbid obesity, if anything.

In other words, pop-culture feeders like Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, who also pulled their planned airing, can claim sympathy for Ledger's family all they want, but they could also claim they invented the sun. According to some reports, ET and The Insider each paid around $200,000 for the footage in the first place; when you spend money like that, you expect a return on it. And it's surely not the first time that tabloid television has had irate bystanders breathing down their neck about propriety, further diluting the sympathy proposition and leaving behind a more mundane reason: The video's gotcha thrust was torpedoed by the toxicology report.

Ledger's family was unequivocally clear in their statement on the issue, blaming not cocaine, cannabis or even heroin. Instead, they ignored the white horse and zeroed in on the white elephant in the room: "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." And given the alarming stats culled together by the AP, University of Michigan, National Institute on Drug Abuse and every other organization looking into the problem of prescription drug abuse, one would have thought that the Bush administration would have put together some kind of task force on the trend by now. (Stop laughing.) But no, it just caught on to the phenomenon around the end of January 2008, when it announced its "first major federal effort to educate parents" about Oxycrack and its ilk.

Their chosen venue? A Super Bowl ad, which undoubtedly aired somewhere between commercials hawking SUVs, fast food, beer and hard-dick pills. According to the accidentally hilarious Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Bush administration "will leverage $14 million to generate nearly $30 million in advertising" on the dangers of prescription drug abuse, including the hyperexpensive Super Bowl ad, which in itself gives Americans a better idea of how their tax dollars are spent than I don't know what. Add that together with the swollen numbers spent by the ONDCP and the Bush administration in their quixotic crusade against weed, Oxycrack's only serious competition for the nation's youth, and you have one economic shell game going nowhere. No wonder the ONDCP is now calling pot growers terrorists. They need to spend that Homeland Security money on something, for lack of a better term, material.

Because it's much easier to bust poor kids (or disabled adults) for possession or cultivation of cannabis than it is to nail rich kids rifling through their parents' medicine cabinets. As the Drug Law Blog explained, Purdue Pharma was allowed to fraudulently market Oxycrack for six years using everything from fake charts to doctors who like to push the stuff too hard, all while pulling in nearly $3 billion in a hailstorm of deaths and bad publicity. When they wanted someone to generate better publicity, they hired Rudy Guiliani and sent the wannabe president all the way to Congress to plead their case to keep Oxycrack's hope alive. Those are some high-powered connections.

And they've worked wonders, even as prescription drug abuse has reached statistical highs and, as the Ledger death has illustrated, cultural lows. If his death is remembered for anything, it will not be for tabloid retractions of his admitted love of weed and coke, but rather for the spotlight his passing has placed more firmly on the officially sanctioned pills that caused it. The world would be a better, and healthier, place for it.

Scott Thill runs the online mag His writing has appeared on Salon, XLR8R, All Music Guide, Wired and others.

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