When the news broke Dec 20 that a previously-healthy 32 year-old actress collapsed in the bathroom apparently of “a heart attack”, quite a few observers (me included) immediately targeted prescription drugs as a cause for her death.
Latest revelations by TMZ reveal that paramedics found several drugs in her bedroom: Topamax (anti-seizure meds also to prevent migraines), Methylprednisolone (anti-inflammatory), Fluoxetine (depression med), Klonopin (anxiety med), Carbamazepine (presumably for migraine headaches), Ativan (anxiety med), Vicoprofen (pain reliever), Propranolol (for migraine), Biaxin (antibiotic), Hydrocodone (pain med) and miscellaneous vitamins.
I had earlier posted an article here explaining the common denominator between celebrities like Anna Nicole-Smith, Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson. All three had succumbed to untoward drug interactions where many prescription drugs with similar actions are taken concurrently. The thing to note is that there need not necessarily be an overdosage of any particular drug . Sometimes normal dosages, when taken at the same time, create a cascading effect and cause these untoward effects aka drug interactions aka drug toxicity.
Why do such tragic consequences happen?
- Usage of several painkillers in an attempt to get fast relief – people with long-term pain like headaches may resort to increasingly stronger medications as the body gets used to them. In Brittany’s case, the leaked coroner’s report revealed she was apparently on several painkillers presumably for migraine: carbamazepine, vicoprofen and hydrocodone ( a synthetic narcotic). The false and wrong rationale is usually that the more one takes, the better for fast pain relief.
- Taking a cocktail of sleeping pills to ‘knock off’ – expecting a sleeping pill to work immediately can lead some people to erroneously take ‘more of the same or similar’ in an attempt to induce sleep quickly and perhaps get rid of unpleasant memories of the day. This is compounded when alcohol had been taken as it is a brain “downer”, just like sleeping pills. The combined effects of these pills and alcohol will suppress the brain from allowing the lungs to breathe. Never mix sleeping pills, sedatives, tranquillizers or take them with alcohol.
- Alcohol does not jive with many medications – apart from sleeping pills and cold medications, even some antibiotics (eg Bactrim, Flagyl) can cause unpleasant reactions.
- Using many doctors or pharmacies – when visiting multiple doctors, it is important tobring along the list of medications in one’s possession so that there is no inadvertent cross-reactions. Similarly, using only one pharmacy enables screening with existing medications to prevent harmful drug interactions.