Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Did Ambien Play a Role in Heath Ledger's Death?

While it's not yet known what killed actor Heath Ledger, the cause is suspected to be an overdose of one or several medications. Police said what medications were found by his side when they discovered his body on Tuesday, including sleeping and anxiety drugs. Police on Wednesday reported finding a rolled-up $20 bill in the room, but said no illegal drugs had been found. Ledger had said in interviews that he had been taking the sleep medication Ambien, one of the most widely prescribed sleep drugs.

He said that some of the grueling acting roles he had taken on, including in the upcoming Batman film and in "I'm Not There," left him sleeping only a couple of hours a night.

Ambien (the trade name in the U.S. for zolpidem) has come under closer scrutiny in some countries for some unusual side effects that have been documented, including bizarre episodes in which people taking Ambien got out bed and drove their cars, prepared food, and even had sex while partially asleep. These people were usually not able to remember doing these activities once they woke up.

In addition, some cases of hallucinations have been experienced with some sleeping drugs, and of course any such drug can be dangerous when taken along with other medications, depending on the type of drug and the dosage taken.

Did Ambien play a role in Heath Ledger's death? It's too soon to tell, but it's possible that some kind of mix of drugs in the wrong combinations or the wrong dosages was at least a contributing factor in his death.

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