When used in the corporate sense, the word "synergy" evokes in me a feeling of fascist Orwellian-ism, whereby human beings function not as individuals, but as a single unit, carrying out goals that are not meant to do anything but bolster some sort of authoritarian ideal. Yeah, the word "synergy" kind of puts a knife in my little anarchist heart and savagely twists it to keep the blood flowing.

But I'm not really here to talk about corporate synergy. The recent and tragic death of Heath Ledger brought to the forefront of my mind an act of human stupidity that, while I'm not 100% certain was the cause of his demise (as the toxicology reports have yet to bear that out), is most definitely the cause of death for thousands of people every year, and that is the synergistic effect of different types of drugs in the human body.

The synergistic effect describes the tendency for certain drugs, when taken together, to amplify one another's effects or side-effects, at times to the point of being lethal. From the few tidbits I've been able to glean from the Ledger case, it appears that he was taking Ambien for insomnia and likely combined this with some Valium or Xanax, and/or possibly some codeine cough syrup that he was prescribed for pneumonia. In other words, in his residence were the ingredients for a pretty potent death cocktail. At least for certain individuals.

Oh sure, we can look to the media for examples of people who should have died out long ago, whose bodies have become veritable toxic waste dumps whose very blood would likely kill the mosquitos that bit them, but who manage to keep on ticking in spite of it. Examples include Amy Winehouse, Iggy Pop, Danny Bonaduce. Then there are others who got away with their antics perhaps longer than they should have but eventually paid the price, such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Chris Farley, River Phoenix, John Belushi.

And then we have someone like Ledger who may have been into some drugs here and here, but certainly didn't stake a reputation on it, who likely just took the wrong combination of products on the wrong day, something that likely wouldn't have fazed the heartbeats of the above mentioned people, and ceased to wake up.

It all seems incredibly unfair, but it could happen to anyone at any time, and I think such is the fallibility and the stupidity of mankind. It's not smart to mix opiates with depressants. It's not wise to mix any drug with alcohol, for that matter. People never seem to realize when they're chugging away and popping pills that they're not only leaving the door cracked for the grim reaper. They're nailing the damn thing open and putting out a welcome mat and a plate of cookies. Even taking aspirin or ibuprofen for a hangover can be lethal, as it becomes incredibly toxic for a liver that is still processing the sludge from the previous night's escapades. Never should people chase their Vicodins or Percs with a cocktail. Never should one chase a joint with a tablet of acid. It's also a really bad idea to shoot heroin and snort cocaine at the same time, as I'm sure Chris Farley and John Belushi figured out during their dying breaths.

It's bad enough to engage in any of those substances singularly and to excess. But why combine them? Isn't one of them enough? Why take that kind of chance? Here we have a healthy young man lying dead in his bed, a victim of bad chemistry. It shows that no one is really immune from that kind of crapshoot when moderation goes out the window and people decide to test their invincibility, probably thinking that if Keith Richards can do it, anyone can.

A lot of people like to discuss the effect that one's celebrity status has on selling a product or an idea. It's tragic that Heath Ledger has to be the latest famous face to demonstrate the perils of playing dice with various substances. It would have been much better to see him go out an old man being remembered first for his great talents rather than for his incredibly sad manner of death.

Use as directed, people. Use as directed.


  1. A sober look at an intoxicating subject, Allie.

    I just want to know how in the hell Keith Richards is still alive.

  2. Keith Richards is not "alive" not is the ususal sense. He is preserved, pickled. Try and draw blood and you'll get Southern Comfort.