January 05, 2010


Actress Brittany Murphy’s untimely death from a heart attack caused tongues to wag when an arsenal of pharmaceuticals from Ativan to Vicodin was found in her home. Who gets a heart attack from the flu? From Michael Jackson to Heath Ledger, prescription drug deaths seem to be a tragic trend in 2009—and they aren’t just for celebrities anymore.

Newsweek reported in 1998 that only heart disease, cancer and stroke kill more people that properly used prescription drugs. We are more likely to die from these drugs than we are AIDS, suicide or overdosing on recreational drugs including cocaine and heroin. Deaths from antidepressants and sedatives have doubled in recent years and most shocking of all, the biggest increase is in the 15-24 age group from both ‘scrips and cocaine use. Sadly, we are more Clueless than Brittany was, folks!

Nowadays, there are TV commercials for medications that we should “ask our doctors about” if they aren’t already prescribing them to us. In many of these commercials here seem to be a longer list of potential side effects than benefits. And with side effects like death, the adverse drug reactions can be worse than the condition the drugs attempt to fix! On a recent visit to Duane Reade I was shocked to see a placard at the pharmacy which read “Prescriptions. Easier to get than a taxi.”

Many gay men could qualify as pharmacies themselves. I know that I stock up on Valium whenever I visit Mexico, and I once took a porn cruise which docked at Cozumel and was amazed by the plethora pills the porn stars scooped up—from Viagra to antibiotics. I’m told some even bought Special K and smuggled it via their water bottles. Those crafty queens!

Heath Ledger’s death really struck a chord with me. His autopsy found that it wasn’t an overdose of any one drug but that the combination of his medicines caused his untimely death. I “prescribe” Valium for myself on a regular basis. Let’s be real--downers and other sleep aids are often used by the party set who might need a little help coming down, if you know what I mean. One night after tearing up the town, I downed a Valium to help me sleep. An hour of twitched out sleep later, I bolted up and couldn’t remember if I’d taken mama’s little helper yet or not. So I gobbled a couple more to ensure a good night’s rest. Sound familiar? Of course, since I’d prescribed the Valium for myself, I’m not fully aware of the drug’s interaction precautions with the alcohol or any other "medicines" I was taking at that time. “Synergy”, a particular danger, is when one drug triples the effect of alcohol or another medication one is on.

It’s vital to ask your doctor about drug interaction precautions, especially since they don’t always volunteer the information. And how could they if you haven’t been brutally honest about what you’re taking? Though I do make house calls, I’m no physician. But here are a few health hazards particular to gay men which may ring a bell. If they do, they are definitely worth grilling your doctor about. Faster than you can say propofol.

Poppers and Viagra? Only if you want to go out with a bang. As in my heart goes bang bang bang bang with a heart attack. And for the record, snorting poppers at home do not qualify as cardio just because they get your blood pumping. Unless, of course, they are taken in conjunction with leg lifts and deep lunges.

Exstacy and cocaine in combination are also bad for the ticker but not all the data is in from my extensive, unclinical personal experiments. Cocaine on it’s own isn’t exactly a heart tonic.

Never use meth with toothpaste. Luckily, long-term addicts won’t have enough teeth to warrant any.

GHB + alcohol=DEATH. You may not even need the alcohol.

Many anti-depressants intensify the effects of alcohol. You shouldn’t booze on any of them but Lexapro seems to be the best bet if you do tipple. “But doctor, not drinking intensifies my depression!” St. John’s Wort, an over-the-counter herb used for depression, can affects your HIV medications.

Aspirin can cure the recession! It is very effective when removed from the bottle and taken to straight clubs and sold as extacy to vacationing euro trash who you’ll never see again, Sherry Vine assures me.

Ambien is responsible for ravenous appetites and sleepwalking. I’ve seen news reports of one woman cooking in her sleep! And a friend of mine went out partying and woke up dreaming of french fries. Unconscious, she drove herself to an all night burger joint and crashed on the way home!

The jury is still out on the differing quickness and quantity at which drugs are absorbed by snorting and so-called “booty bumps” is still out. Though if you must try both, Kevin Aviance recommends trying the nose prior to the booty.

And to end on a positive note, Pepto Bismal is very handy for getting dog cum out of your wig. And diarrhea IS a water-based lubricant should you run out of K-Y.

Obviously, these are only a few light-hearted, unprofessional hints from a pill-popping party animal. A doctor, preferably not Michael Jackson’s former dealer, is the only one who can answer all of your questions and if you have more, consult with The Physicians’ Desk Reference in libraries or at Drugstore.com, where you can input your medications and check them against your other meds for possible snafus. Brittany died at age 32 and Heath was gone at 28. Should you really wait to find out about this?