Celebrity accidental overdoses show dangers of prescription drugs
Posted February 15, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — It could be weeks before a medical examiner determines what caused the death of singing icon Whitney Houston last week, but authorities have said several prescription medications were found in her hotel room after staff found her submerged in a bathtub.
Accidental overdose on prescription medications has caused or contributed to the deaths of many celebrities in recent years, including Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Brittany Murphy and Anna Nicole Smith.
WakeMed medication safety officer and pharmacist Alex Jenkins said this should serve as a warning: Certain prescription medications can have lethal consequences if misused.
"You have to know what is in those medications and the potential for interactions," Jenkins said.
He said pain medications, sleep aids and anti-anxiety medications are of special concern, especially when a patient is taking any combination of the three. That's because they all work on the same brain receptors and can cause drowsiness, dizziness, unconsciousness and difficulty breathing.
"There is a potential for overdosing, especially if there's alcohol involved," Jenkins said. "You get a little drowsy. If you're sitting in a hot tub or you're sitting at the pool or you're sitting at home and maybe taking a bath, there's definitely a risk."
To avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions, Jenkins said it's critical that patients inform their pharmacist of all medications they're taking – even if those medications are being filled at a different pharmacy.