Heath Ledger Autopsy — Accidental Drug Overdose

Just cuz we were talking about this in the comments of my previous post about Heath Ledger, I thought you guys might be interested in the final answer.  Heath Ledger’s autopsy results said he died of an accidental overdose.  Drugs found in his system included:

Two opioid painkillers:
Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
Hydrocodone (Vicodin)

Three benzodiazepines (sedatives):
Diazepam (Valium)
Temazepam (Restoril)
Alprazolam (Xanax)

And an OTC sleep aid — doxylamine.

Here’s the lesson to learn, my friends — if you can’t sleep, don’t just take MORE drugs and more TYPES of drugs to try to fix the problem.  Because unless you know what you’re doing, and most people don’t, you’ll be. . .

Well, let’s just say you’ll be sleepin’ like the dead, which may feel like an acceptable outcome sometimes when you’re beyond exhaustion (believe me, I’ve been there), but it just really, really, isn’t.

Heath — I wish you’d asked for help, man.   And if you got all those drugs from the same doctor, I hope your family sues for malpractice.


4 Responses to “Heath Ledger Autopsy — Accidental Drug Overdose”

  1. Lorraine Says:

    I think it is easy to see people abusing drugs who somehow end up coming out the other end just fine. They have multiple chances to deal with their problems. It creates this illusion that it’s not that dangerous. Then, another person seemingly takes less but it becomes lethal for them. Life is funny that way ….

  2. Ellen Says:

    Meg, I totally agree with you!
    Heath had a scary amount of drugs in his system. No problem is that bad that you have to pop all of those pills to deal with it. You’d think that with “rehab” boeing so popular with all the young stars now, he’d have been able to get more help. It’s just a shame that we never really got to see him grow as an actor… he did have some talent. Poor bugger!

    P.S. – I LOVE that my boyfriend Daniel Day-Lewis dedicated his Golden Globe to Heath (Awwww!) and my other boyfriend Guy Pearce and his wife (who he is wrongly married to) made a really lovely statement honoring Heath, just after his untimely death.

  3. Liz Says:

    I’m uncomfortable using the terms “accidental overdose” and “abuse” as if they were interchangeable. I don’t think Heath Ledger meant to act irresponsibly (which is what I infer from the word “abuse”). I think he didn’t have enough knowledge or guidance about the meds he was taking. I think too many people make bad – and sometimes fatal – mistakes with medication, and to chalk it up to “abuse” kind of over-simplifies it for me. He may have had problems, but I think Heath goofed up, and I’m so sorry he did!

  4. megwood Says:

    I kind of want to side with you on this one, Liz. But at the same time, I’m having some trouble coming up with a legitimate reason why Heath had those two pain meds sitting around. Especially since we already know he was willing to break the law to feel good (he admitted on camera that he smoked pot “every day for 20 years,” and though I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, and also think pot is a WAY better drug of choice than either tobacco or alcohol, at the same time, it’s still representative of his willingness to do something illegal for the sake of his own pleasure. It’s not SUCH a stretch to also posit he popped oxy periodically to get high. Personally, I don’t have a problem with this — but lots of people do, and I don’t think that’s necessarily “wrong” of them).

    Of course, regardless of how often he took drugs recreationally, his death was still just an accident, I’m sure. I think that even if he was taking the pills for recreational reasons, he didn’t think it would kill him. And I’m sorry it did.

    And I also don’t think there’s much point in judging him for it. Or anybody else who does drugs, legal or otherwise, for that matter.

    Disclaimer: I’m a substance abuse librarian who believes addiction is a “disease” not that different from diabetes or schizophrenia. I also once nearly took 20 temazepam after not sleeping for five straight nights (and I mean literally not sleeping AT ALL for five straight nights) — not because I had a death wish, but because my brain was so fuzzed from lack of sleep that I actually thought if 2 temazepams got me 30 minutes of sleep, 20 would get me 4 hours, and I was so desperate for that 4 hours I would’ve done just about anything.

    Just as I was counting them out, though, I realized, hold on, that math’s not quite right. And by the time I had pulled out a pen and piece of paper to actually work out the RIGHT number (let’s see, 2 gets me 30 minutes, 2 goes into 20 ten times, ten times 30 is 300, 300 divided by 60 is. . .), my husband had come home and rushed me to the doctor’s office.

    Thankfully, the reason I wasn’t sleeping was because of a new medication I was on that was having a speed-like effect on my brain, so I was highly distractable in addition to being exhausted. If I were just plain ol’ exhausted, I might be dead right now.

    In other words, I’m the last one to judge Heath for taking lots of pills when he was tired, either because he was so tired he just wanted five minutes where he didn’t have to think about it, or he was so tired he really thought taking every pill in the house might finally get him an hour or two of sleep. But at the same time, I doubt his prescriptions for those pain meds were legitimate, and I think that’s probably the part people are reacting to when they toss around words like “abuse” or “irresponsible.” I can sorta understand that reaction, even if I don’t agree with it myself.

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