Heath Ledger is dead

The autopsy results came back yesterday. In his system were found oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), alprzaolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), temazepam (Restoril) and doxylamine (sleeping pills/cough meds). It was suggested that the cause of death was mixing these dugs, rather than overdose of any one drug.

"We learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy," Mr. Ledger said. "Heath's accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage."

The family is grieving. Death of their child must be hard to bear.

But the idea that he was prescribed a combination of these medications by a doctor and innocently took them, resulting in his death, is nothing short of pure denial.

I did not know Mr. Ledger, I have not seen his movies. By all accounts, he was a dashing young actor.

You would like me to assume that he had chronic severe pain problems, requiring a prescription of both Oxycontin and Vicodin. He also had severe anxiety problems, and some physician gave him Xanax and Valium to be taken together. He was also given Restoril and another sleeping pill (Doxylamine) for insomnia. He obediently took his medications as prescribed, went to bed, and never woke up.


I have no reason to say he was abusing these medications. If anything, this cocktail suggests a serious suicide attempt, which, unfortunately, was successful. The fact remains, though, that all these medications are freely available on the street and have a significant abuse potential. You don't really need a prescription for any of these if you have enough money or 'friends'.

The other day, the TV was on and I accidentally stumbled upon a reality show which follows a famous family around. There are three daughters, I think. They go to parties, get drunk, one of them was arrested, all on TV. At one point, the sisters are having an argument, and one of them says, ' I could totally use, like, a Xanax or something.'

Depression and/or drug abuse are serious problems. Please don't brush them under the carpet.

Snap Judgement on Heath Ledger's Autopsy results

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About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
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17 Responses to Heath Ledger is dead

  1. Karen Lynn says:

    this scared the crap out of me. so very sad. do you think he had different prescribing doctors for each medicine? do you think maybe he had actually ingested more than what he was prescribed?

  2. wow… i must admit, i find it humorous that he had to combine similar drugs from the same classes at the same time. three benzos, two opioids. in anesthesia that would be downright dumb. why not just take more of one medication? anyhow, i digress, and am in a silly mood. i was just in bed for 15 hours.have a nice weekend!

  3. Purplesque says:

    I know..the idea that it was accidental mixing of low-dose prescribed drugs is almost absurd. Not to mention how it would scare people who do take a combination of opioids and benzos for valid health reasons.

  4. Purplesque says:

    I'm afraid we'll never know now, but I find the idea of being prescribed all these meds simultaneously a little hard to believe.

  5. Scott says:

    Hmm…maybe over time his doc had tried him on different meds for sleep, anxiety, pain, whatever. Heath would come back saying one didn't work, and they'd try another…maybe he intentionally hoarded them, maybe he had leftovers.
    It infuriates me that a coroner/M.E. would "helpfully" declare accidental death when there is ample evidence of suicide. Okay, so some people still attach a stigma to suicide; it's not the official's job to mitigate that. We don't know conclusively that that's what happened here, but we all know it does happen.

  6. Karen Lynn says:

    Yeah I agree Scott. I bet he had one of those nights where maybe it started with a pain that wouldn't go away with 1 vicidin, then took 2 oxywhatevers to see if that would help and then had something happen to upset him and needed xanax to calm down because he was so upset. Even taking it that far, I find it hard to believe that he would have needed a sleeping pill that night after taking narcotics and anti-anxiety meds.

  7. Scott says:

    Yep–you'd think he'd be asleep by that point! Although maybe he had one heck of a tolerance built up. Who knows, this is just idle speculation on my part. 🙂

  8. Karen Lynn says:

    yes, me too. idle speculation. its so scary though, thinking that just the right combination, not an overdose, can kill you.

  9. Purplesque says:

    I don't know..you really think he had that kind of pain? Anxiety? Insomnia? I hate to speculate, but its too much of a stretch. And anybody who gets these meds from a pharmacy would also get the big warning leaflets, wouldn't they.

  10. Scott says:

    I agree that it's too much of a stretch that he had all those problems at the same time and in such magnitude that one doc dumped all those drugs on him at once. That's nuts.
    I do think it's plausible that he accumulated this stuff from one doc over time–say, insomnia one year, a bad back another.
    Mostly I agree with the article you linked to–multiple docs is more likely.
    But regardless of how/why he got the stuff, I agree that the final gesture doesn't look like an accident.

  11. Olivia says:

    I can understand the family not wanting to admit it, but I too believe that it was a suicide. Perhaps he didn't mean to die…but I don't think he really wanted to live.

  12. Aubrey says:

    OK…all I'll say is that I take meds, and I won't try a recommended aspirin until I verify that it's compatible with what I take.

  13. Purplesque says:

    Thats the thing, the idea that a smart young man would just pop them unquestioningly..and that particular combination, too.

  14. When I heard "accidental" i said something nasty t the TV. Honestly. "Accidental" — ? Not to likely, IMHO. I wonder how much pressure the "authorities" were under, to reach that particular conclusion.

  15. Purplesque says:

    What bothers me is the message this sends across..suicide is shameful? Prescriptions meds can kill you even when taken as prescribed? Makes no sense..

  16. Yes the entire thing is not good. And if he weren't so popular the not-good message(s) wouldn't reach as many malleable minds.

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