Prescription Drug Addiction, Not Random Accident, Killed Heath Ledger

Prescription Drug Addiction, Not Random Accident, Killed Heath Ledger

America's best-known addiction expert has told an Australian newspaper that actor Heath Ledger was very likely the victim of prescription drug addiction.

Los Angeles-based radio and television host, Dr. Drew Pinsky, says Ledger's drug taking was well known among Hollywood insiders, and that although he didn't know Ledger personally, the manner of his death and habitual drug consumption "shows all the hallmarks of addiction."

Ledger died, the doctor said, as a result of prescription drug addiction, rather than the usual illicit drugs associated with celebrities like cocaine and heroin. The 28-year-old's death was ruled by medical examiners an 'accidental overdose' of six different prescription drugs, including narcotic pain killers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications - drugs all commonly associated with prescription drug addiction.

"I don't know him," Dr. Pinsky said, "but I've never seen a patient die of that kind of reckless combination of medicine that wasn't a drug addict."

The doctor added that there "were people who were very concerned about his drug use in this town before he died."

Ledger, the star of the latest Batman smash hit The Dark Knight, in which he plays Batman's nemesis The Joker, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment in January, several months after the movie had completed filming.

Dr. Pinsky, head of chemical dependency services at Las Encina Hospital in Pasadena, CA, said Ledger was just one casualty in a long line of victims of what he calls a prescription drug abuse 'epidemic'. "We see this all the time," he said. "We have an absolute epidemic of patients dying exactly the way he died - as drug addicts."

Dr. Pinsky, the star and producer of the reality TV series, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, and the host of a long-running radio and TV advice show, is something of a household name regarding personal advice, drug abuse and treatment.

"Chemical dependency is not limited to illicit drugs," Dr. Pinsky said, "and prescription drug addiction is every bit as dangerous."

Prescription drug addiction in this country has become a major priority at federal, state and local levels, because surveys show it is growing faster, and killing more people, than illicit drugs. And the treatment for prescription drug addiction very often requires a medical drug detox program to safely withdraw from the addictive substance before embarking on further drug rehab treatment.

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