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Friday, January 25, 2008



I am going to share with my readers today something I NEVER told any one else. What prompted me to write about it now is the untimely death of the talented actor, Heath Ledger, and how a person can kill himself with sleeping pills (or tranquilizers and similar drugs) without even knowing it.

Year ago I suffered from insomnia before I entered the practice of natural holistic medicine and before I knew better. One day I went to bed and put a bottle of sleeping pills beside me on the night table – an extremely dangerous practice. I took two pills and tried to go to sleep. Perhaps an hour later, but I will admit not knowing how much time had elapsed, I reached over to take another dose of two pills. Sometime later and very groggy, I awoke and tried to remember whether I had taken one or two doses. I took another dose because I forgot I took the previous dose. As the night progressed I apparently awaked a number of time quite groggy and lamenting the fact that I was unable to fall asleep. I finally collapsed on my way to the bathroom and stayed unconscious for a considerable time on the floor. Upon awakening many hours later, I went to put the bottle of pills away and noticed that the bottle was more than half empty. During the night I had eventually taken almost a half bottle of sleeping pills. I almost died that night. I almost killed myself without even trying. All I wanted to do was go to sleep, but not permanently! I threw the bottle of pills away and vowed never to take them again – and I have not.

I was very lucky. If I had drunk some alcohol earlier in the evening, perhaps the added effect of the alcohol and sleeping pills would have done me in.

After taking sleeping pills or tranquilizers you can enter the groggy state of semi-unconsciousness. I believe this happens to many people who just want to sleep. They take these pills and confuse the situation by combining more than one different kind of medicine – alcohol, tranquilizers, anti-depressives – all depressants of the central nervous system. . This can set up a situation within the body where the taking of more than one such medicine is not additive but rather one medicine enhances the effect of another. We know that alcohol enhances the tranquilizing effects of other sedative drugs.

Extreme care must be exercised when taking such pills to sleep. There are better ways. One cannot expect the doctor to monitor the prescribing of these medications. Many people seek the advice of more than one physician. The patient accumulated the many different medications obtained from more the one physician. If one goes to the same pharmacy, many pharmacies now track the medications given to a particular person. Many of these pharmacy programs detect medicine combinations which are contra-indicated and cannot be taken together.

There are many disreputable physicians who will prescribe all kinds of depressants (downers) or drugs designed to perk a person up ( a so-called “uppers”). We have seen these doctors in the national news in the cases of the deaths of Anna Nicola Smith and Elvis Presley and prescribing other dangerous drugs as in the case of the wrestler, Chris Benoit, who killed his 7 year old son and his wife before killing himself. Such doctors are not real doctors. They are , in fact, drug dealers and should be dealt with accordingly with license removal and prison. Unfortunately, such disreputable doctors have been around for a long time, and they will be here as long as they can make money this way. When people crave things, both medicines and drugs, there will be someone to sell it to them. WE WILL NEVER GET RID OF THE SO-CALLED DRUG PROBLEM IN OUR COUNTRY AS LONG AS THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BUY THE DRUGS. Money and greed drive the market place.

In the case of Heath Ledger, I would not be surprised that hard drugs are not also involved in this man’s death. He was know to have been addicted in the past, but all his friends now say that he was clean. I have been associated with many drug addicts. Some have repeatedly been through detox programs. In between each admission, these addicts will convincingly state that they are clean when they are not. We tend to believe them because we want to believe them. The average drug addict can be most charming people and they easily con their friends and family. I do not want here to convict Heath Ledger before the fact because, if drugs were not involved, the tragedy is even more serious because an individual usually trusts conventional drugs to help rather than cause his death. We shall wait and see before making judgment.

In summary, be extremely careful with conventional sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and anti-depressants. These are potent central nervous system depressants and the effects of combining more than one can be dangerous because they can be additive in their depressant effects.

nicola michael c. Tauraso, M.D.
Director, Tauraso Medical Clinic

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