Heath Ledger toxicology report released

Actor died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs
February 6, 2008 7:37:03 PM PST
Actor Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs that included painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication, the New York City medical examiner said Wednesday. "Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine," medical examiner's spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said in a news release.

The drugs are the generic names for the OxyContin painkiller, the anti-anxiety drug Valium, Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, and the sleep aids Restoril and Unisom. Hydrocodone is another name for ibuprofen.

The ruling comes two weeks after the 28-year-old Australian-born actor was found dead in the bed of his rented SoHo apartment. Police found bottles of six types of prescription drugs, including sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication, in his bedroom and bathroom, raising speculation of an accidental drug overdose.

Ledger was discovered by his masseuse on Jan. 22 after she arrived for an appointment that afternoon. She entered his bedroom to set up for the massage and found him unresponsive, and proceeded to call actress Mary-Kate Olsen three times over the next nine minutes before dialing 911. Ledger had been dead for some time, and police say no foul play occurred.

Ledger, nominated for an Oscar for his role in "Brokeback Mountain," had returned to New York from London days before his death, where he had been filming a $30 million Terry Gilliam film. He said in a November interview that his most recent completed roles in the Batman movie "The Dark Night" and Bob Dylan biopic "I'm Not There" had taken a toll, saying he couldn't sleep.

"Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night," Ledger told The New York Times. "I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going." He said he had taken two Ambien pills, which only gave him an hour of sleep.

Ledger's family returned to the actor's hometown of Perth, Australia on Tuesday to prepare for his funeral. Arrangements were private.

In a statement released through Ledger's publicist, Ledger's father, Kim, said Wednesday: "While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy. Heath's accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage."

Complete statement from Kim Ledger, Heath's father:

We remain humble as parents and a family, among millions of people worldwide who may have suffered the tragic loss of a child. Few can understand the hollow, wrenching, and enduring agony parents silently suffer when a child predeceases them. Today's results put an end to speculation, but our son's beautiful spirit and enduring memory will forever remain in our hearts.

While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy. Heath's accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage.

Our family enjoyed an extremely happy two week visit with Heath just prior to the New Year. Those recent precious days will stay with us forever. We as a family feel privileged to have some of his amazing magic moments captured in film. To most of the world Heath was an actor of immeasurable talent and promise. To those who knew him personally, Heath was a consummate artist whose passions also included photography, music, chess and directing. We knew Heath as a loving father, as our devoted son, and as a loyal and generous brother and friend.

We treasure our beautiful granddaughter Matilda (to our dear Michelle) as well as an unbelievably wonderful network of close

friends, forever, around the world. Families rarely experience the uplifting, warm and massive outpouring of grief and support as have we, from every corner of the planet. This has deeply and profoundly touched our hearts and lives. We are eternally grateful.

At this moment we respectfully request the worldwide media allow us time to grieve privately, without the intrusions associated with press and photography.


Load Comments