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February 2, 2008

Program suggests Americans use too many prescription drugs

CANADIAN — If a person isn’t suicidal, why would he take enough prescription pills to die?

“Short term memory loss,” Eric Varian, 20, said. “Taking pills destroys your short term memory, so you keep taking more and more of the medicine. You forget that you just took some a few minutes or a few hours ago.”

Could that be why actor Heath Ledger was found dead in his apartment, with no suicide note and no apparent reason to kill himself?

Varian and the other people at Narconon Arrowhead Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation and Education Center think that might be exactly what happened.

Complete toxicology reports about Ledger aren’t in yet, but the press has reported that the star of “Brokeback Mountain” and “A Knight’s Tale” had six bottles of prescription drugs in his apartment. An undisclosed number of pills were missing from the bottles.

The prescriptions in Ledger’s home, according to published reports, were: Lunesta, which is used to control insomnia; Loremtazaepam, which is sold in the United Kingdom to treat severe insomnia; Restoril, a sleep inducer; Xanax, which is used for anxiety and panic attacks; and Valium, a sedative.

Varian knows a lot about Valium and Xanax and how easy it is to forget that you took a dose a short while ago. “That’s why I’m here,” he said Wednesday. “I am a student at Narconon and I don’t take Valium anymore.

“Taking Valium wasn’t solving the inherent problem I had, which was anxiety. It was just treating the symptoms of it.”

Varian, who was a 14-year-old professional figure skater when he began taking Valium, said getting the pills from his psychiatrist was easy. So was trading pills with other teens at school. “I was zonked out in class, so I tried other things, like Klonopin,” he said, adding that it is another strong sedative.

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