Michael Jackson, revered as a genius with unparalleled influence, was also a man with difficult medical problems that caused him much discomfort and pain. A source close to his family believes that Michael’s pain started after the Pepsi commercial incident where his hair caught on fire after a pyrotechnic light went off too soon. Aside from his recognized skin problem called vitiligo, there was also speculation about diagnoses of lupus, anorexia nervosa, and other psychiatric illnesses. Unfortunately the true extent of his illnesses may not ever be known to the public. The following video is actual footage of the Pepsi commercial incident inwhich Jackson’s hair caught on fire.
At the time of his death, his physician states that Michael had been experiencing insomnia for the prior 6 weeks, and that he therefore needed multiple anxiety medications to help him to sleep. Insomnia, or difficulty sleeping or staying asleep for greater than four weeks, can seriously effect a person’s daily activities due to associated daytime sleepiness and indeed causes significant frustration. Treatment includes pharmaceutical, behavioral therapy, and non-medical modalities (i.e. creating a schedule, increasing exercise, decreased caffeine/alcohol/tobacco intake, adjusting sleep environment). Medications include sedatives, antihistamines, antidepressants, and herbal remedies. The following is a short video that offers two simple tips that could help with insomnia.
On the day of his death, Michael was given propofol as well as multiple anti-anxiety medications. Propofol is a general anesthetic used to sedate patients during surgery or when breathing with the assistance of a ventilator. It is typically administered by a physician trained in anesthesia, requires monitoring once given, and is NOT used to treat insomnia. Side effects of this medication include low blood pressure and suppression of breathing. It can indeed be dangerous when used in combination with other medications. Michael’s physician was arguably guilty of improper prescribing of medications, regardless of how much suffering the King of Pop might have been experiencing.
Michael unfortunately serves as a very visible example of the damage that prescription substance abuse can cause. For problems like insomnia as well as chronic pain, the medications used are often addictive. Multiple other physicians that worked with Michael voiced concern over his misuse of drugs over the years. As he took these medications more regularly and at higher doses, his body most likely became more tolerant to their affect – and that’s why he needed more and more. For this reason, it is important that people who suffer from similar medical problems seek out non-medical and/or alternative forms of treatment in order to address the problem in a safe and appropriate manner. They should also seek out assistance from healthcare providers that have a strong sense of ethics and knowledge of appropriate treatments. We lost the King of Pop – but his legacy, both behind the mic and personally, will live on…
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