On Wednesday (February 6), the New York medical examiner’s office released the official cause of actor Heath Ledger’s death: acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine.
The office concluded that the manner of death was accidental, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications. The drugs, according to the medical examiner, are the generic names for the painkiller OxyContin, the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and Xanax, and the sleep aids Restoril and Unisom.
A representative for New York’s Drug Enforcement Administration said the agency is working to determine how Ledger was able to obtain so many prescription drugs. “We are working with the NYPD to identify any illegally prescribed drugs that may have been prescribed to [Ledger],” spokesperson Erin Mulvey told People.com on Wednesday.
Heath Ledger’s father, Kim, released the below statement following the announcement of Heath’s cause of death, according to People.com:
“We remain humble as parents and a family, among millions of people worldwide who may have suffered the tragic loss of a child. Few can understand the hollow, wrenching and enduring agony parents silently suffer when a child predeceases them. Today’s results put an end to speculation, but our son’s beautiful spirit and enduring memory will forever remain in our hearts.
“While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy. Heath’s accidental death serves as a caution [of] the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage.
“Our family enjoyed an extremely happy two-week visit with Heath just prior to the New Year. Those recent precious days will stay with us forever. We as a family feel privileged to have some of his amazing magic moments captured in film. To most of the world, Heath was an actor of immeasurable talent and promise. To those who knew him personally, Heath was a consummate artist whose passions also included photography, music, chess and directing. We knew Heath as a loving father, as our devoted son, and as a loyal and generous brother and friend.
“We treasure our beautiful granddaughter Matilda (to our dear Michelle), as well as an unbelievably wonderful network of close friends, forever, around the world. Families rarely experience the uplifting, warm and massive outpouring of grief and support as have we, from every corner of the planet. This has deeply and profoundly touched our hearts and lives. We are eternally grateful.
“At this moment we respectfully request the worldwide media allow us time to grieve privately, without the intrusions associated with press and photography.”
The 28-year-old actor’s body was discovered inside a New York apartment on January 22 . The initial autopsy report was inconclusive , and it took approximately two weeks for the medical examiner’s office to conduct additional tests and to complete its investigation into the nature of Ledger’s death. The results of toxicology screenings helped the office determine the specific cause of death.
Soon after Ledger’s death, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters during a press conference the actor was found face down in a normal sleeping position, not at the end of a bed as had been rumored. Kelly also confirmed reports that crime-scene technicians had found a rolled-up $20 bill inside the apartment, which they collected for testing. The bill was rolled in a manner common among cocaine users, but police said no visible drug residue was found on it.
Police told reporters that there were no illegal drugs recovered from the apartment, but they said six different prescription drugs were found in the apartment, including ones to treat insomnia and anxiety, along with an antihistamine. The actor had struggled with addiction to prescription medications .
Ledger’s housekeeper, Teresa Solomon, arrived at his apartment around 12:30 p.m., and police say that about a half-hour later, Solomon entered the bedroom, where she found the actor lying in bed, face down, with a sheet pulled up to his shoulders. Solomon claims she could hear Ledger snoring and left the room.
Masseuse Diana Wolozin arrived just before 3 p.m. and called her client’s cell phone. When Ledger failed to answer the call, both women entered the bedroom and attempted to stir the actor from his sleep. Ledger did not respond, prompting Solomon to call Mary-Kate Olsen, a friend of Ledger’s, using his phone. The housekeeper called, seeking guidance, police said. She eventually called 911 just before 3:30 p.m.
Memorial services for the actor have been held in New York and Los Angeles , and family and friends have arrived in Ledger’s hometown of Perth, Australia, for his private funeral, which is expected to take place on Saturday.
For more on Heath Ledger’s tragic passing, read reactions from his peers and other admirers , as well as casting directors he worked with. Also, watch Ledger talk about his evolution as an actor in a 2005 interview with MTV News .
[This story was originally published on 2.6.08 at 11:09 a.m. ET]