On Thursday, rock fans worldwide were shocked and saddened to hear that the legendary Soundgarden singer, Chris Cornell, had killed himself.
"Chris's death is a loss that escapes words and has created an emptiness in my heart that will never be filled. As everyone who knew him commented, Chris was a devoted father and husband. He was my best friend," Cornell's wife, Vicky Cornell, wrote following the death of her husband.
According to authorities, Chris Cornell died by hanging himself in his MGM Grand Detroit hotel room after a concert at the Fox Theatre.
But, why, many are asking, would a man who was worshiped by his fans, had a beautiful family and successful career, take his own life. Well, his wife and family attorney have come forward with a potential reason.
Chris Cornell was taking Ativan, a psychoactive drug in the Benzodiazepines class.
Benzodiazepines, sometimes called "benzos," are a class of psychoactive drugs whose core chemical structure is the fusion of a benzene ring and a diazepine ring. The drug works by enhancing the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) at the GABA receptor in the brain, producing a hypnotic effect. The drug, which was accidentally discovered in 1955 by Leo Sternbach, helps some people with high-anxiety. However, it can also be detrimental to one's well-being.
Hallucinations, insomnia, psychosis, excitability, irritability, aggressive behavior, agitation, hostility, anxiety, vivid dreams, hyperactivity, organic disinhibition, depersonalization, apathy, excitement, feeling mad, illusion, nightmares, sleep disorders, suicide ideation, and rage are just a few of the side effects caused by benzos.
When Chris last spoke to his wife before the show, she explained that her husband sounded normal and was making plans for their upcoming vacation. He did not sound like he wanted to be dead.
"His world revolved around his family first and, of course, his music second. He flew home for Mother's Day to spend time with our family. He flew out mid-day Wednesday, the day of the show, after spending time with the children. When we spoke before the show, we discussed plans for a vacation over Memorial Day and other things we wanted to do."
However, when they spoke after the show, just before he took his own life, Vicky notes, all that changed after he took an Ativan.
"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 continued. "What happened is inexplicable and I am hopeful that further medical reports will provide additional details. I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life."
As Rolling Stone reports, an attorney for the Cornell family, Kirk Pasich, reiterated Vicky's belief that an extra dosage of Ativan -- an anxiety medication often employed by recovering addicts -- altered Chris Cornell's mental faculties after the Detroit show. Pasich added that the Cornell family is "disturbed at inferences that Chris knowingly and intentionally took his life."
"Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris — or if any substances contributed to his demise," Pasich said. "Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages. The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions."
Pasich added, as Rolling Stone reports, that side effects of Ativan include "paranoid or suicidal thoughts, slurred speech and impaired judgment." Vicky Cornell noted her husband's slurred speech following the Detroit concert in her statement.
She added, "The outpouring of love and support from his fans, friends and family means so much more to us than anyone can know. Thank you for that, and for understanding how difficult this is for us."
Cornell's fate is, unfortunately, not an isolated one.
Last year, the suicide rate in the United States reached record levels, according to a federal analysis. Even more worrisome is a study from this year that shows an "alarming" rise in children being hospitalized with suicidal thoughts or actions.
The study concluded that the number of children and adolescents admitted to children’s hospitals for thoughts of suicide or self-harm more than doubled during the last decade.
While this latest study stopped short of attempting to locate the cause for this spike in suicide, it is important to point out the elephant in the living room.
There have been 150 studies in 17 countries on antidepressant-induced side effects. There have been 134 drug regulatory agency warnings from 11 countries, and the EU warning about the dangerous side effects of antidepressants.
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Suicide, birth defects, heart problems, hostility, violence, aggression, hallucinations, self-harm, delusional thinking, homicidal ideation, and death are just a few of the side effects caused by psychiatric medication.
Despite the deadly laundry list of potential reactions to these medications, the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed by 400% since 1988.
Currently, 11 percent of all Americans 12 years of age and over take antidepressant medication. This is a higher rate than all other countries in the world.
While the skyrocketing use of psychiatric drugs in adults is certainly worrisome, the exponential increase of use in children is downright scary.
Currently, over 1 million babies and toddlers, from 0 to 5-years-old, are on psychiatric drugs. This massive number of prescriptions exists in spite of the glaring lack of information showing the efficacy of such drugs on such young children.
But starting them young does keep them on the pills as they get older.
The number of kids taking psychiatric drugs quadruples once those children turn 6. There are currently over 4 million children ages 6-12 currently taking these drugs.
Another 4.5 million kids, aged 0-17, are taking ADHD drugs and over 2 million children are on antidepressants. As for the drug Cornell was on, Ativan, there are over 2 million children taking benzos as well.
Aside from the known side-effects, there are incidents of the drug companies deliberately falsifying the safety data and allowing a known dangerous drug to be given to children. For years, GlaxoSmithKline was illegally persuading doctors to prescribe paroxetine, sold under the brand name Paxil, as an antidepressant for children and teenagers.
GSK used contrived data, known as Study 329, which was conducted and funded by the drug company and published in 2001, to convince the doctors to write scripts. The study made the claim that Paxil is "well tolerated and effective" for kids. Their bolstered claims worked, and in 2002 alone, doctors wrote two million Paxil prescriptions for children and adolescents.
Let that sink in.
Not only are doctors handing out psychoactive drugs like candy at the behest of their drug sales reps, but the drug manufacturers are lying about the dangers.
We have no way of knowing the long-term societal impact of millions of children being irresponsibly given potentially dangerous psychoactive medication, as this is a relatively new path Americans have embarked upon.
The website SSRIstories.org does, however, provide a potential glimpse into the future of a country hellbent on medicating infants with psychiatric drugs. The database is a collection of over 6,000 stories that have appeared in the media (newspapers, TV, scientific journals) in which prescription drugs were mentioned and in which the drugs may be linked to a variety of adverse outcomes including violence.
As the Free Thought Project reported this week, mass murderer Dylann Roof was on antidepressants when he went on a mass killing spree.
But it's not all doom and gloom, there is the good news. All of this over-medication, all of the drugs being given to children, all of it is voluntary -- for now anyway. This entire massive over-medication epidemic could and should stop overnight through simply spreading the information.
The mother who allows her 8-month-old child to be prescribed antidepressants only does so out of ignorance. We can only better ourselves as humans and as individuals through seeking a lesser ignorance.
And now, thanks to Chris Cornell's brave wife, Vickie, this issue is being forced into the mainstream.
Arguably one of the greatest ROCK singers of all time wasn't killed by cocaine or heroin — but, likely, an FDA approved drug that causes suicide.
Please share this article with your friends and family to empower them with knowledge while at the same time exposing such a dangerous practice. In his death, Cornell can still help keep others alive.