Academy-award nominated actor Heath Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment this afternoon, the apparent victim of a drug overdose. Although the exact cause of death is as of yet unknown, prescription sleeping pills were found strewn around his bed, recent reports disclose. Ledger apparently had some trouble sleeping recently and told the New York Times in November that he was taking Ambien. He also was reported to be suffering from pneumonia.

This a very sad and tragic story and my heart goes out to Heath Ledger’s family. Although there is no way, yet, to know what happened exactly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the combination of pneumonia (hacking, phlegmy congestion) and sleeping pills did him in. Ambien, in particular, can close off the airway and cause breathing difficulties. Add to that a sedative effect, and it may be a recipe for disaster. Ambien can also cause anaphylaxis–an acute and severe allergic reaction that can lead to death within minutes.

Let me say it loud and clear: Ambien is bad stuff! Don’t take it. I’ve reported the dangers of this drug extensively on the Dr. Nick Show (Episode 3–Lifestyle Drugs). It has side effects (read them here–this stuff is no joke). According to the Mayo clinic, you don’t want to take Ambien if you are suffering from respiratory conditions. Duh! YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THE LABELS! Period. Just because a drug is doctor prescribed doesn’t mean diddly. It’s everyone’s responsibility to know exactly what they are taking and what the dangers are at all times.

Google Ambien and pick an information site. Pick one–any one. The side effects are there. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. Heath Ledger was only 28 years old. He was young and vibrant and healthy. It could happen to anyone. Please, read the instructions, and if you’re not sure–don’t take it!

Rest in Peace Good Soul.

Heath Ledger 1979-2008.

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