Celebrity Deaths Related to Prescription Drugs: Are Doctors Partly Responsible?
It seems as if more and more celebrity deaths are being attributed to prescription drugs, a prime illustration of the nation’s rising drug epidemic. Why do these types of preventable deaths continue to occur, and who is being held responsible for them?
Dr. Winson Chung, a medical doctor, teacher, and psychiatrist, explores physicians’ roles in celebrity medication-related deaths in a San Francisco Chronicle article, and poses an important question for the public and the medical community: Why isn’t more scrutiny being placed on the doctors prescribing the medications that lead to celebrity deaths?
Recent celebrity deaths in which prescription medications were a major factor include:
- Whitney Houston (Xanax, mixed with alcohol and other prescription drugs);
- Michael Jackson (Propofol and Demerol); and
- Heath Ledger (multiple sedatives including oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine).
Dr. Chung attributes the prescription drug epidemic, the elephant in the room, to a number of complex issues. To begin with, some physicians are compensated or bullied into prescribing treatments.
Additionally, mental health is an abstract, often subjective area of medicine, and it can be difficult for doctors to discern when a patient is truly in need of a psychiatric drug. Chung explains that “most people don’t have the time or motivation for therapy, [which] contributes to the prescribing of anti-anxiety medications, like Xanax, as the path of least resistance.”
There is no simple solution to this crisis, but it’s painfully obvious that the medical protocol is in need of an overhaul.