The Academy Award-nominated actor Heath Ledger, 22, died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of the prescription medications oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine, according to the NYC chief medical examiner.
The blog KidneyNotes illustrates why he died by listing the many potential drug interactions from Epocrates, an online drug database.
The fact that the medications are obtained by prescription does not make them safer in any way. Overdose or abuse of painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs is just as life-threating as the abuse of street drugs.
In 1977, Elvis Presley's personal physician prescribed 10,000 doses of amphetamines, barbiturates, narcotics, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and laxatives for Presley. Blood tests showed traces of 14 different drugs in Elvis's body at the time of his death.
"The untimely death of Heath Ledger raises an important question for anyone taking multiple medications: Do you know what you're taking and how much?," writes MarketWatch.
USA Today reiterates that "Ledger's death actually highlights two related problems, say Wick and other pharmacy researchers. One is prescription drug abuse, while the other is something called polypharmacy, or the taking of multiple drugs at one time."
Heath Ledger’s Death Is Ruled an Accident. NYTimes.
When Icons Die Young. NYTimes.
Accidental poisonings on the rise among adults. MarketWatch.
Elvis Presley's personal physician. Clinical Cases and Images - Blog.
Heath Ledger's Drug Interactions. KidneyNotes.