The music world was rocked last week by news of Soundgarden singer and guitarist Chris Cornell’s death — and again when it was determined to be a suicide. But Cornell’s wife is speculating that too much anti-anxiety medicine might have been to blame.
“I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life,” Vicky Cornell said in a statement. While her words honored her late husband, she also recounted their last conversation before Chris was found dead. “When we spoke after the show, I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different. When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him,” she said. “What happened is inexplicable and I am hopeful that further medical reports will provide additional details.”
The Cornell family’s attorney, Kirk Pasich, echoed Vicky’s speculation that an extra dose of the benzodiazepine drug Ativan likely affected Chris’s ability to rationalize his actions. Pasich specifically noted that possible side effects of Ativan include “…paranoid or suicidal thoughts, slurred speech and impaired judgment.” The similarity of these effects and Chris’s behavior in his last hours is just too close to ignore, Pasich and Vicky argue.
This prescription drug-related speculation about Cornell’s death comes on the heels of a $3 million jury award in a lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline over suicidal behavior tied to its drug Paxil. Wendy Dolin’s husband had been taking paroxetine, the generic form of Paxil, when he stepped in front of a train in 2010. The jury held that GSK is responsible for its failure to warn Paxil users about the potential of suicidal thoughts or actions.
Dolin and other families have claimed, for the past decade, that a class of antidepressants and antipsychotic medication called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) drove their loved ones to commit suicide. Many of those who have lost loved ones argue some drug manufacturers and medical professionals have dismissed these claims and instead let unsuspecting people suffer the consequences.
While Ativan is not classified as an SSRI drug (and there is not yet confirmation about the possible link to Cornell’s suicide) the message is the same: It is the responsibility of drug manufacturers — along with the healthcare professionals who prescribe these drugs — to warn the public about possible dangerous side effects tied to their drugs. Many families of those who committed suicide say their loved ones would never have taken those medications had they known about their potential mind-altering effects.
Cornell’s attorney and family reiterate that same devastating point: “… if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions.”
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A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).