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Brittany Murphy..Another Drug Casualty

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.

Brittany Murphy, in June 2009, compared with an earlier pic below, gave vent to rumors she was suffering from anorexia

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?


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Alcohol does not jive with many medications – apart from sleeping pills and cold medications, even some antibiotics (eg Bactrim, Flagyl) can cause unpleasant reactions.
  4. 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.


Death of The Stars..Learning From Their Mistakes

michaeljackson2

In my previous posting, I alluded to the possibility that Michael Jackson’s death could be due to the potentiating effects of several opiate prescription drugs like oxyContin & pethidine. We will know for sure whether this is the case, in a few weeks when the toxicology results are announced.

heathledger2In the case of Heath Ledger, who died at 42, the coroner found six different tranquillisers & opiate pain-killers in his tissues and concluded that accidental overdose was the cause of death. The prescription drugs found included OxyContin, hydrocodone, diazepam (Valium), temazepam (Normison, for sleep), alprezolam (Xanax,for anti-anxiety) and doxylamine (available over-the-counter as Somnil for aiding sleep).

annanicolesmithAnother case in point is that of Anna Nicole Smith, who died aged 39 in early 2007 due to massive doses of a sedative chloral hydrate together with at least 9 other tranquillizers that included Valium, Ativan and Rivotril.

The common denominator in all the three above cases (assuming MJ’s results are confirmed) is that there has been untoward drug interactions where many prescription drugs with similar actions are taken concurrently. The thing to note is that there need not  necessarily be a 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.

Here are some common mistakes that can be avoided:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Alcohol does not jive with many medications – apart from sleeping pills and cold medications, even some antibiotics (eg Bactrim, Flagyl) can cause unpleasant reactions.
  4. 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.


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