With the sad untimely death of Amy Winehouse, questions are yet again being asked why rock stars have a penchant to be associated with a death wish in conjunction with drugs. She joins a long line of celebrities.. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison(the Doors), Ron McKernan (the Grateful Dead) who all died due to drugs at the age of 27 strangely enough (the 27 Club). Add to this Michael Jackson, of course.
Maybe its easier to understand why these celebrities take to drugs..as an escape from stress, as performance enhancers to keep up to fans’ expectations and also to enforce sleep when the mind doesn’t want to switch off.
Quite often these drugs gradually lose their effect once taken over long periods, thus necessitating higher and higher doses, which can lead to overdosage. But yet, this does not seem to be the case in some instances.
On the other hand, there are cases where there has been untoward drug interactions when many prescription drugs with similar actions are taken concurrently. In other words, therapeutic doses of several prescription drugs, usually pain-killers and sleeping pills, had been taken at about the same time, creating a deadly mixture due to chemical interaction. Such was the case with Michael Jackson, where propofol, lorazepam (Ativan), midazolam (Dormicum) and diazepam (Valium) were found at autopsy amongst others.
Here are what I see are some of the mistakes that occurred and the measures that can be taken:
- Usage of several painkillers in an attempt to get fast relief – people with long-term pain like backache may resort to increasingly stronger medications as the body gets used to them. In MJ’s case, it has been reported that he had been on oxyContin (an addicting painkiller derived from narcotics) for many years and had received pethidine (another narcotic painkiller) at the same time. 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 – together with sleeping pills and cold medications, even some antibiotics (eg Bactrim, Flagyl) can cause unpleasant reactions.
- Using many doctors or pharmacies – when visiting multiple doctors, bring along the list of medications in your possession so that there is no inadvertent cross-reactions. Similarly, using only one pharmacy enables screening with existing medications to prevent harmful drug interactions.
- Amy Winehouse joins ‘notorious’ 27 Club (cbsnews.com)