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Heath Ledger Died of Accidental Overdose of Prescription Drugs, Examiner Says

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

NEW YORK Actor Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs that included painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication, the New York City medical examiner said Wednesday.

"Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine," medical examiner's spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said in a news release.

The drugs are the generic names for the OxyContin painkiller, the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and Xanax, and the sleep aids Restoril and Unisom. Hydrocodone is a widely used 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 is what caused his death," 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, including sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication, in his bedroom and bathroom, raising speculation of an accidental drug overdose.

Ledger was discovered by his masseuse on 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 three times over the next nine minutes before dialing 911. 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 days before his death, where he had been filming a $30 million Terry Gilliam film. He said in a November interview that his most recent completed roles in the Batman movie "The Dark Knight" and Bob Dylan biopic "I'm Not There" had taken a toll, saying he couldn't sleep.

"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.

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, Ledger'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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kicker23 (2/6/2008)
How do you "accidentally" take 5 different types of pills?

he didn't accidently take the pills. he accidently overdosed because he didn't know those 5 pills would interact to kill him. he was probably prescribed the meds by 2 or more different doctors, and they probably didn't do an adequate job telling him not to take this pill with that pill, or finding out what he was already on. happens a lot more often that you'd think.

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thesouphead (2/6/2008)

but the government deems it to be illegal.

As well they should. It is a highly dangerous gateway drug that leads to even more dangerous legal drugs like Valium, Xanax, Restoril, Unisom and Aspirin.

Why, if it was legal, people all over this great nation might start taking prescription "medicine" left and right!

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thesouphead (2/6/2008)
XLDenaliReturns (2/6/2008)
should've just smoked some weed. that will kill your pain, ease your anxiety, and put you to sleep (and it won't freaking KILL you)

but the government deems it to be illegal.

and for good reason. have you seen those ads? apparently marijuana makes females lose their inhibitions and take nude photos or get pregnant.

if only these poor girls would stick to the legal stuff, like xanax and alcohol.

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XLDenaliReturns (2/6/2008)
kicker23 (2/6/2008)
How do you "accidentally" take 5 different types of pills?

he didn't accidently take the pills. he accidently overdosed because he didn't know those 5 pills would interact to kill him. he was probably prescribed the meds by 2 or more different doctors, and they probably didn't do an adequate job telling him not to take this pill with that pill, or finding out what he was already on. happens a lot more often that you'd think.

So it is the doctors fault? Even though the most widely acknowledged fatal drug combination is sleeping pills and pain killers, it is the doctors fault? If Heath Ledger didn t know that 5 different drugs would interact, he is a complete fool.
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kicker23 (2/6/2008)
XLDenaliReturns (2/6/2008)
kicker23 (2/6/2008)
How do you "accidentally" take 5 different types of pills?

he didn't accidently take the pills. he accidently overdosed because he didn't know those 5 pills would interact to kill him. he was probably prescribed the meds by 2 or more different doctors, and they probably didn't do an adequate job telling him not to take this pill with that pill, or finding out what he was already on. happens a lot more often that you'd think.

So it is the doctors fault? Even though the most widely acknowledged fatal drug combination is sleeping pills and pain killers, it is the doctors fault? If Heath Ledger didn t know that 5 different drugs would interact, he is a complete fool.

don't know if you know this or not, but a couple of those drugs put you in a state where you might not realize what you are doing.

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kicker23 (2/6/2008)
XLDenaliReturns (2/6/2008)
kicker23 (2/6/2008)
How do you "accidentally" take 5 different types of pills?

he didn't accidently take the pills. he accidently overdosed because he didn't know those 5 pills would interact to kill him. he was probably prescribed the meds by 2 or more different doctors, and they probably didn't do an adequate job telling him not to take this pill with that pill, or finding out what he was already on. happens a lot more often that you'd think.

So it is the doctors fault? Even though the most widely acknowledged fatal drug combination is sleeping pills and pain killers, it is the doctors fault? If Heath Ledger didn t know that 5 different drugs would interact, he is a complete fool.

i'm just speculating as to the "2 doctors not knowing what the other has prescribed" theory. it does happen though.

i'm not saying it's the doctors' fault, it's probably mostly his own fault. but why has a healthy 20-something guy been prescribed 5 different meds? either he had some SERIOUS issues people don't know about, or he was over-prescribed. people take all kinds of crap they don't need. probably has something to do with every other ad on TV telling you to ask your doctor to hook you on this or that drug.

me personally, i had no idea taking a sleeping aid and a painkiller together will kill you. i don't know if i'd consider that "common knowledge". i got some hydrocodones at the dentist once, and i don't remember them asking me if i was on any sleep aids. i try to take as few prescription drugs as possible.

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kicker23 (2/6/2008)
XLDenaliReturns (2/6/2008)
kicker23 (2/6/2008)

So it is the doctors fault? Even though the most widely acknowledged fatal drug combination is sleeping pills and pain killers, it is the doctors fault? If Heath Ledger didn t know that 5 different drugs would interact, he is a complete fool.

Nobody said it´s the doctors fault but he probably did not attempt suicide and he wasn´t a common drug junkie either. But he indeed was probably a careless fool

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I'm sorry, but if you have OxyContin, Valium, Xanax, Restoril, Unisom, and Hydrocodone you are a junky. Oxy and Hydro are both pain meds, one a little stronger then the other but with similar effects. Valium and Xanax are both benzos and both have similar effects and the other two are sleeping pills, right? Why would you have two of the same types of drugs unless you are doctor shopping?

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falkonX7 (2/7/2008)
I'm sorry, but if you have OxyContin, Valium, Xanax, Restoril, Unisom, and Hydrocodone you are a junky. Oxy and Hydro are both pain meds, one a little stronger then the other but with similar effects. Valium and Xanax are both benzos and both have similar effects and the other two are sleeping pills, right? Why would you have two of the same types of drugs unless you are doctor shopping?

Because the first one didn't help, so you were prescribed another, and hadn't gotten around to properly disposing of the the first one. Then, when the second (or third) doesn't work, you are DESPERATE for sleep and not thinking clearly, you take another pill. It was horrible judgment, and it was an ignorant thing to do, but it doesn't necessarily make him a junkie.

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falkonX7 (2/7/2008)
I'm sorry, but if you have OxyContin, Valium, Xanax, Restoril, Unisom, and Hydrocodone you are a junky. Oxy and Hydro are both pain meds, one a little stronger then the other but with similar effects. Valium and Xanax are both benzos and both have similar effects and the other two are sleeping pills, right? Why would you have two of the same types of drugs unless you are doctor shopping?

Those were my thoughts exactly. For the other people debating the 5 meds, it was actually 6. 2 painkillers, 2 anxiety meds, and 2 sleeping aids. Also, it's rare that a doctor would prescribe you 2 different meds that both do the same thing, it's malpractice if they prescribe you 2 of each for 3 different types. That's absolutely ridiculous. If a doctor prescribed you those three types of med's, then more than likely, he gave you a warning letting him know the dangers of combining them. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised if those 6 meds were prescribed by 6 different doctors. No doctor is giving you oxy and hydro, he probably had an injury and went to two different specialists for the same injury. Those anxiety drugs are typically prescribed by psychiatrists, and they are never prescribed at the same time, so it's possible he had two psych eval's. Sleeping aids are prescribed by specialists as well, most often ENT's (ear/nose/throat effects sleep) and other sleep doctor's. I would bet he had at least 3 different doctor's prescribing those meds to him and I would also bet he never told them about the other prescriptions he was taking.

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etifan (2/7/2008)

Because the first one didn't help, so you were prescribed another, and hadn't gotten around to properly disposing of the the first one. Then, when the second (or third) doesn't work, you are DESPERATE for sleep and not thinking clearly, you take another pill. It was horrible judgment, and it was an ignorant thing to do, but it doesn't necessarily make him a junkie.

Are you kidding me? So he had two pain meds, two anti anxiety meds and two sleeping pills? Thats amazing that the first one never seemed to work, huh? Did he get all of these from the same doctor? If he did that doctor is in a lot of trouble. If he got them from different doctors its just like I said... he was Dr. shopping. And you don't dr. shop unless you are a junky looking for meds.

If I find out he was prescribed that by one doctor I will take back what I said, but its hard for me to believe that one Dr. would prescribe a drug cocktail like that.

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falkonX7 (2/7/2008)
Are you kidding me? So he had two pain meds, two anti anxiety meds and two sleeping pills? Thats amazing that the first one never seemed to work, huh? Did he get all of these from the same doctor? If he did that doctor is in a lot of trouble. If he got them from different doctors its just like I said... he was Dr. shopping. And you don't dr. shop unless you are a junky looking for meds.

If I find out he was prescribed that by one doctor I will take back what I said, but its hard for me to believe that one Dr. would prescribe a drug cocktail like that.

I'm not saying it's what happened, just that it's a possible explanation, assuming he had one doctor. Why is it amazing to you that the first one didn't work? If one med worked for everyone, why would there be a need for selection?

He was quoted saying he couldn't sleep more than two hours per night, so whatever he was doing wasn't working. When the doctor prescribed the second, he probably assumed that an adult would know to dispose of the first one...you know, the one that DIDN'T work.

I have three scrips for sleep meds at home now, b/c I haven't gotten around to returning them to the pharmacy for disposal. They didn't work and I wouldn't combine them, but I understand the frustration that might have led him to that point. I still think it's ignorant and not something I would do. It doesn't *prove* that he's a junkie, though.

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etifan (2/7/2008)

I'm not saying it's what happened, just that it's a possible explanation, assuming he had one doctor. Why is it amazing to you that the first one didn't work? If one med worked for everyone, why would there be a need for selection?

He was quoted saying he couldn't sleep more than two hours per night, so whatever he was doing wasn't working. When the doctor prescribed the second, he probably assumed that an adult would know to dispose of the first one...you know, the one that DIDN'T work.

I have three scrips for sleep meds at home now, b/c I haven't gotten around to returning them to the pharmacy for disposal. They didn't work and I wouldn't combine them, but I understand the frustration that might have led him to that point. I still think it's ignorant and not something I would do. It doesn't *prove* that he's a junkie, though.

Its amazing because those are all some pretty potent drugs. Tell me, since xanax and valium are very similar, why would he need both? Since they are both benzo's (which knock your ##### out) why would he need two different types of sleeping pills? And what was he having pain from? Doc's don't usually prescribe meds like Oxycontin unless you are in chronic severe pain, like cancer patients for example. You don't get oxycontin because your back hurts occasionally.

I'm not trying to prove that he is a junky, I'm just saying its hard for me to believe that he took xanax and that didn't work so he takes its sister, valium. and that he is in so much pain that Hydro didn't work and he had to get oxy. And it really hard to believe that he could take all of that and still need two different sleeping pills.

have you ever had any of these drugs? They don't play. When i messed myself up wakeboarding (torn ligaments, cracked ribs, torn rotator cuff, herniated disc) I was prescribed tylox (5 mg oxycodone) for pain and valium for muscle spasms. I had no trouble going to sleep and staying asleep.

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etifan (2/7/2008)
falkonX7 (2/7/2008)
Are you kidding me? So he had two pain meds, two anti anxiety meds and two sleeping pills? Thats amazing that the first one never seemed to work, huh? Did he get all of these from the same doctor? If he did that doctor is in a lot of trouble. If he got them from different doctors its just like I said... he was Dr. shopping. And you don't dr. shop unless you are a junky looking for meds.

If I find out he was prescribed that by one doctor I will take back what I said, but its hard for me to believe that one Dr. would prescribe a drug cocktail like that.

I'm not saying it's what happened, just that it's a possible explanation, assuming he had one doctor. Why is it amazing to you that the first one didn't work? If one med worked for everyone, why would there be a need for selection?

He was quoted saying he couldn't sleep more than two hours per night, so whatever he was doing wasn't working. When the doctor prescribed the second, he probably assumed that an adult would know to dispose of the first one...you know, the one that DIDN'T work.

I have three scrips for sleep meds at home now, b/c I haven't gotten around to returning them to the pharmacy for disposal. They didn't work and I wouldn't combine them, but I understand the frustration that might have led him to that point. I still think it's ignorant and not something I would do. It doesn't *prove* that he's a junkie, though.

He used to do heroin. I don't know if he was still doing heroin, it wasn't in his system. BUT, he was taking painkillers with anti-anxiety and sleep aids. Hmm, sleep aids cause drowsiness, painkillers take away pain, and anti-anxiety meds take away feelings. So basically, he's taking 6 drugs that in conjunction would give you all of the effects of heroin, drowsy pain relief without a care in the world.

I think it's much more likely that a recovering heroin user was chasing his old high rather than an irresponsible doctor prescribing 6 different schedule II substances without mentioning the risk of taking all of them at once.

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falkonX7 (2/7/2008)
Its amazing because those are all some pretty potent drugs. Tell me, since xanax and valium are very similar, why would he need both? Since they are both benzo's (which knock your ##### out) why would he need two different types of sleeping pills? And what was he having pain from? Doc's don't usually prescribe meds like Oxycontin unless you are in chronic severe pain, like cancer patients for example. You don't get oxycontin because your back hurts occasionally.

I'm not trying to prove that he is a junky, I'm just saying its hard for me to believe that he took xanax and that didn't work so he takes its sister, valium. and that he is in so much pain that Hydro didn't work and he had to get oxy. And it really hard to believe that he could take all of that and still need two different sleeping pills.

have you ever had any of these drugs? They don't play. When i messed myself up wakeboarding (torn ligaments, cracked ribs, torn rotator cuff, herniated disc) I was prescribed tylox (5 mg oxycodone) for pain and valium for muscle spasms. I had no trouble going to sleep and staying asleep.

I prefer not to take medication at all and do yoga, drink hot tea, etc. It doesn't consistently work, though. Off the top of my head, Ambien, Xanax and Lexapro just made me irritable and didn't relax me. I've had Oxy and Hydro (separate incidents) and only slept a few hours. I'm active, healthy, happy...my mind will only turn "off" for a few hours at a time, that's all.

My point is some people are just resistant to medication. Again, I don't believe Ledger is completely innocent in this (ignorant and desperate, yes), however the six meds don't prove he is a junkie.

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etifan (2/7/2008)
falkonX7 (2/7/2008)
Its amazing because those are all some pretty potent drugs. Tell me, since xanax and valium are very similar, why would he need both? Since they are both benzo's (which knock your ##### out) why would he need two different types of sleeping pills? And what was he having pain from? Doc's don't usually prescribe meds like Oxycontin unless you are in chronic severe pain, like cancer patients for example. You don't get oxycontin because your back hurts occasionally.

I'm not trying to prove that he is a junky, I'm just saying its hard for me to believe that he took xanax and that didn't work so he takes its sister, valium. and that he is in so much pain that Hydro didn't work and he had to get oxy. And it really hard to believe that he could take all of that and still need two different sleeping pills.

have you ever had any of these drugs? They don't play. When i messed myself up wakeboarding (torn ligaments, cracked ribs, torn rotator cuff, herniated disc) I was prescribed tylox (5 mg oxycodone) for pain and valium for muscle spasms. I had no trouble going to sleep and staying asleep.

I prefer not to take medication at all and do yoga, drink hot tea, etc. It doesn't consistently work, though. Off the top of my head, Ambien, Xanax and Lexapro just made me irritable and didn't relax me. I've had Oxy and Hydro (separate incidents) and only slept a few hours. I'm active, healthy, happy...my mind will only turn "off" for a few hours at a time, that's all.

My point is some people are just resistant to medication. Again, I don't believe Ledger is completely innocent in this (ignorant and desperate, yes), however the six meds don't prove he is a junkie.

It might not "prove" it...But come on, don't be naive.

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jdu00743 (2/7/2008)
etifan (2/7/2008)

I prefer not to take medication at all and do yoga, drink hot tea, etc. It doesn't consistently work, though. Off the top of my head, Ambien, Xanax and Lexapro just made me irritable and didn't relax me. I've had Oxy and Hydro (separate incidents) and only slept a few hours. I'm active, healthy, happy...my mind will only turn "off" for a few hours at a time, that's all. My point is some people are just resistant to medication. Again, I don't believe Ledger is completely innocent in this (ignorant and desperate, yes), however the six meds don't prove he is a junkie.

*******************************

It might not "prove" it...But come on, don't be naive.

Did you read the parts of my posts that called him ignorant and desperate, with poor judgment? He isn't innocent. If the past heroin use is true (I don't follow celebrity gossip), fine, he could still have been be a junkie. I simply don't understand the morbid need people have to assume the worst about celebrities. And, *again* some people really are resistant to medication.

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etifan (2/7/2008)
jdu00743 (2/7/2008)
etifan (2/7/2008)

I prefer not to take medication at all and do yoga, drink hot tea, etc. It doesn't consistently work, though. Off the top of my head, Ambien, Xanax and Lexapro just made me irritable and didn't relax me. I've had Oxy and Hydro (separate incidents) and only slept a few hours. I'm active, healthy, happy...my mind will only turn "off" for a few hours at a time, that's all. My point is some people are just resistant to medication. Again, I don't believe Ledger is completely innocent in this (ignorant and desperate, yes), however the six meds don't prove he is a junkie.

*******************************

It might not "prove" it...But come on, don't be naive.

Did you read the parts of my posts that called him ignorant and desperate, with poor judgment? He isn't innocent. If the past heroin use is true (I don't follow celebrity gossip), fine, he could still have been be a junkie. I simply don't understand the morbid need people have to assume the worst about celebrities. And, *again* some people really are resistant to medication.

Sadly, the "worst" is normally the truth.

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kicker23 (2/6/2008)
XLDenaliReturns (2/6/2008)
kicker23 (2/6/2008)
How do you "accidentally" take 5 different types of pills?

he didn't accidently take the pills. he accidently overdosed because he didn't know those 5 pills would interact to kill him. he was probably prescribed the meds by 2 or more different doctors, and they probably didn't do an adequate job telling him not to take this pill with that pill, or finding out what he was already on. happens a lot more often that you'd think.

So it is the doctors fault? Even though the most widely acknowledged fatal drug combination is sleeping pills and pain killers, it is the doctors fault? If Heath Ledger didn t know that 5 different drugs would interact, he is a complete fool.

I doubt he was thinking about the possibilities of his pills interacting while high as a kite on coke and prescription meds.

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