Celebrity Death Serves as Stark Reminder of Danger of Prescription Drugs
> 2/9/2007 11:16:29 AM

In headlines and nightly news leads that should have surprised few, we learned yesterday that Anna Nicole Smith, former Playboy bunny and reality television star, had died in her Florida hotel room. While investigators are currently working on an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death, reports now confirm that Ms. Smith was in possession of a "large amount" of prescription medication. It was only months ago that Ms. Smith's son, Daniel, 20, died under similarly mysterious circumstances and it was later determined that his death was brought about by a combination of antidepressants and methadone that led to a cardiac dysrhythmia.

Since giving birth and tragically losing of her son, Ms. Smith has been at the center of no small amount of press attention, much of which focused on her seemingly unstable health, both physical and mental. The news of the drugs being discovered in Ms. Smith's room, even if legitimately prescribed, point again to a situation where prescriptions may have been used recklessly and irresponsibly. It is highly unlikely that a "large amount" of prescription drugs were necessary for the maintainance of Ms. Smith's health, and their presence turns this into an "if there's smoke..." situation.

We've written extensively in the past about the dangers presented by prescirption drug abuse, as well as covered the topic in a video presentation with Dr. William Hapworth. At the time he wrote:

Often thought of as less dangerous than other illicit drugs, prescription medications have grown into a full fledge abuse epidemic all their own. The problem is that the public is flooded with information about every new "miracle" drug. Then doctors, who are often under-informed, either prescribe recklessly or are duped by patients that travel from one M.D.'s office to the next looking to pick up scripts. Fraudulent prescriptions and pharmacy robbery also help to get these drugs onto the streets...

Studies have shown that many GPs are afraid to address the subject of prescription drug abuse with their patients. If change is going to come in this situation, it must start with the doctors. By putting these powerful drugs on the streets, they risk the lives of their patients and anyone else who might have access to the prescriptions. Regulation needs to come from those in the medical profession. But the word must also be spread to patients that prescription drug abuse is not harmless. Their rationalized belief, mentioned by many sufferers, that because the drugs came with a prescription, they are safe. This type of thinking is na´ve and can lead to disaster.

Anna Nicole Smith is neither the first nor the last famous face to die under hazy, and likely drug related circumstances, she just happens to be the most recent. It is in times like these however, with her untimely death fresh in our minds, that we need to refocus our efforts on preventing others from the same fate. This loss, like others before it, is senseless and unnecessary. While many media outlets will likely focus on Ms. Smith's modeling career and life in the tabloids, those concerned with how she died need to turn their focus again toward educating the public about the dangers of mental health problems and their relationship to drug abuse, both illicit and prescribed.

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