In the News
Could Michael Jackson’s Life Have Been Saved?
A top doctor weighs in on his death and the abuse of prescription painkillers
-The Betty Editors
The news of Michael Jackson’s death continues to rivet us all as the details unfold. The one question we all want answered is: could his death have been prevented? Betty caught up with Dr. Erika Schwartz, medical director of Cinergy Health and a leading authority on preventative health, to try and find some answers.
Do you think Michael Jackson’s life could have been saved?
Dr. Schwartz: Please note that my answers are based on information I gathered from the media as I had no direct access to Michael Jackson nor did I ever treat him. My answers, as they pertain to the exact situation are purely speculative. With that understanding, I will say that:
1. Not giving Michael adequate CPR would have further decreased his chances of surviving the original insult, and if true that CPR was indeed performed on a bed vs. a hard surface, it would have made it useless.
2. Michael Jackson was on a deadly combination of addictive drugs. Most of them were painkillers: Vicodin, Demerol, Oxycontin. Some were antidepressants and some were sleeping pills. The cocktail was so deadly, no one could have survived it.
3. Since he had been working very hard, both physically and emotionally, rehearsing for his London concert tour the day prior to his death, it is very possible that he was dehydrated and in Ketosis – a state extremely dangerous to any person’s general well-being, even without the addition of drugs.
4. The drugs he was allegedly taking certainly interacted with one another producing respiratory depression, which is the most common side effect of sleeping pills, pain killers and anti-anxiety medications. In addition to the physical stress and Ketosis, respiratory depression would have precipitated cardiac arrest and led to death more quickly.
5. In the long run, the only thing that would have saved his life would have been an intervention that placed him into a detox facility with long-term treatment and supervision. The underlying problem is the danger posed by drugs – both prescription and otherwise – and his addiction to them.
What could have made the difference?
Dr. Schwartz: Being surrounded by people who put his well-being, both physical and mental, before his fame and fortune. The choice to be drug-free, hydrate properly, get enough sleep and practice proper nutrition is ultimately our own. In the long run, he had to be responsible for taking care of himself.
What can other people learn from this tragic experience?
Dr. Schwartz: Non-medical use of drugs is not the answer to ANY problem, and that no matter how much fortune and fame we may have, we are not invincible. Solutions to a longer, healthier life must come from supportive, connected and caring lifestyles and from preventive measures that lessen or eliminate the likelihood of tragedies such as Michael Jackson’s unexpected death.
But there is a problem in America. 5.2 million people over the age of 12 reported using prescription pain medications non-medically in the past month, and men are most likely to use these methods of self-treatment according to the NSDUH (National Survey of Drug Use and Health). According to the NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) approximately 4.7 million Americans used prescription drugs non-medically for the first time in 2002: 2.5 million used pain relievers, 1.2 million used tranquilizers, 761 thousand used stimulants and 225 thousand took sedatives.
Why is use non-medical use of prescription drugs such a problem, and what can be done to prevent it?
Dr. Schwartz: Doctors can intervene or even stop these tragedies from happening but it is up to the patient, at the end of the day, to use medications responsibly and appropriately.
Harm is not often associated with prescription drugs until it is too late. Often, people don’t realize that used outside a doctor’s orders, prescription drugs can be both dangerous and lethal. Physicians must take responsibility to say NO to patients they suspect may be candidates for drug abuse, no matter how much the patient is paying them. In the case of celebrities, physicians are often star struck like everyone else and are afraid to provide objective care as they may lose the celebrity as a client. This needs to change. Quickly.
Dr. Erika Schwartz, MD, based in NYC, is Cinergy Health Medical Director who has cared for more than 100,000 patients over the past 30 years and has written four best-selling books. She also devotes much of her time helping those who don’t have access to healthcare by volunteering and giving free educational seminars and consultations. Dr. Erika’s ultimate goal is to empower people to take their health into their own hands and become responsible for creating better health and better lives for themselves. As one of the nation’s recognized experts in the field of bioidentical hormones and an outspoken advocate for patient’s rights, Dr. Erika Schwartz has testified before Congress and appeared on many popular television and radio programs.