This is both sad and cautionary.
Chyna’s manager said he knows how the wrestling star died last week.
Chyna, whose real name was Joan Marie Laurer, died of a combination of the sleeping pill Ambien and a form of the tranquilizer Valium, her manager, Anthony Anzaldo, said Wednesday.
Chyna had been taking the legally prescribed pills over the course of three weeks, but wasn’t using them properly, he said. Her death was the result of an accidental overdose, Anzaldo insisted, not suicide.
I am really looking forward to finding out what Dr. Omalu discovers, and if it has anything to do with Chyna’s brain function. My new neuro prescribed Ambien to me, six weeks ago, but at the recommendation of my former neuropsych (it was one of the last things they told me, before they departed), I have not taken it. Frankly, I’d rather acquire the skill of getting enough rest, than take my chances with Ambien.
The neuro was not pleased and kind of rolled their eyes in disbelief that they said so. however, I trust my old neuropsych more than this new neuro — they’ve been “in the business” for a heck of a lot longer, and they know their neuropharmacology a heck of a lot better than the neuro (who didn’t even read their neuropharmacology recommendations, at first).
Looking around, I found this at Sports Concussion and the Clinical Neurologist, Part III, which looks like a good read. It didn’t take long for me to find a mention of Ambien (underline emphasis is mine):
Sleep is best treated with natural, over the counter remedies to prevent dependency and rebound insomnia. Compounds such as diphenhydramine (25 to 50mg), valerian root and melatonin (3-12mg) can be used alone or in combination. Diphen-hydramine is also effective in aborting migraine and other headaches and can also be used as a short-term headache preventative. Melatonin acts to maintain sleep. If medication is required, then TCAs would be considered first line due to their ability to treat associated symptoms. Trazodone, which is chemically similar to TCAs, is another alternative. Sedative hypnotics such as zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta), which can cause rebound insomnia and worsen post concussion symptoms of headache, cognitive symptoms, or dizziness, should be avoided as should benzodiazepines and barbiturates.
So, yeah, WTF, neuro? The last thing I need is rebound insomnia, and worsened post-concussive symptoms. I’m trying to get rid of the headache, cognitive symptoms, and dizziness — specifically — so, why would you prescribe them for me?
And what about all the other folks out there like me, who have been prescribed these things and are possibly having side-effects?
It truly is maddening.
Once upon a time, Chyna was taking Ambien and a type of Valium, and the two interacted all wrong. Maybe there were other factors at work, but the simple fact is, if she did have a history of head trauma, then she was taking at least one drug that she should have stayed away from. And her doctor should have known that. If insomnia — and rebound insomnia — worsen cognitive symptoms, and IF she was having trouble sleeping (which is a safe bet), it would have been harder for her to make good decisions about what to do. And that’s never helpful. Especially if you’ve got a history of brain injury that already makes things difficult and puts more “stuff” on your plate.
I’m sure Chyna never intended to wind up dead, but that’s what happened. And sadly, given the circumstances, I wish I could say I’m more surprised.
R.I.P. Chyna. You were a warrior, for sure.