Chris Cornell’s Prescription Drug Can Lead To ‘Amnesia Blackouts’


Rolling Stone have up a new article on the prescription drug that Chris Cornell was using prior to his death, Ativan. Read an excerpt below from the article:

Research has shown that benzodiazepines, like alcohol, can cause anterograde amnesia if a person takes an excessive amount of the drug. Anterograde amnesia – or what’s otherwise known as “blackouts” – is the inability to create new memories, meaning that the brain doesn’t record events as they happen forward in time. In other words: You lose chunks of time.

Similar to alcoholic blackouts, people experiencing anterograde amnesia from consuming too many benzodiazepines can engage in disinhibited and dangerous behaviors. That can include driving while intoxicated, committing crimes and even attempting suicide, Lee says. “We’ve seen a lot of people who had no [prior] disruptive behaviors have really serious consequences from their benzodiazepine use,” he tells Rolling Stone. “So it can be a serious problem.” (Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc., which manufactures Ativan, did not return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)

The experts who spoke with Rolling Stone noted that prolonged use or misuse of Ativan can exacerbate negative feelings in people with depression or a history of suicidal ideation (Cornell, a recovering addict, had been public about his issues with depression). Though rare, researchers have found a correlation between benzodiazepine misuse and increased suicide risk (a similar link has been with alcohol dependency). But it’s highly unlikely that Ativan would be the sole cause of a completed suicide, as suicide has no single cause, says Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chair of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center and former president of the American Psychiatric Association.

If someone were to die by suicide during an Ativan blackout, he continues, they may have been dealing with underlying mental health issues. “Ativan would be the least contributory factor,” Lieberman tells Rolling Stone.

Though not always, people who’ve attempted or died by suicide often exhibit signs beforehand, says Dr. Joel Dvoskin, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the University of Arizona’s Department of Psychiatry. They may tell you they have no reason to live or that they feel like a burden to others. They may seem depressed or angry. They may act reckless, abuse drugs, or say goodbye without reason.

Yet routinely, he adds, people take these signs as someone “being dramatic” or as a “cry for help.” “A suicide threat is a cry for help, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to kill themselves,” Dvoskin tells Rolling Stone. “If somebody says something that implies suicide, take it seriously.”