An Anti-Anxiety Drug May Have Contributed to Chris Cornell's Death

Cornell told his wife he “may have taken an extra Ativan or two” the day of his suicide.
May 19, 2017, 5:18pm
Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images

Singer Chris Cornell died on Wednesday at the age of 52 after a concert in Detroit; his death was ruled as suicide by hanging. Now, Cornell's family has issued statements suggesting that prescription medication Ativan may have been involved in the former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman's death.

Ativan (or lorazepam) is a benzodiazepine that's used to treat anxiety, epilepsy, insomnia, and alcohol withdrawal. Some of the drug's many side effects include worsening of depression, slurred speech, and suicidal thoughts or actions. The Mayo Clinic says slurred speech is one symptom of an Ativan overdose.


A statement from the family via their lawyer Kirk Pasich says that the family is "disturbed" by inferences that Cornell "knowingly and intentionally" took his own life:

Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris—or if any substances contributed to his demise. Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages. The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions.

Cornell's wife Vicky issued her own statement (emphasis added):

Chris's death is a loss that escapes words and has created an emptiness in my heart that will never be filled. As everyone who knew him commented, Chris was a devoted father and husband. He was my best friend. His world revolved around his family first and of course, his music, second. He flew home for Mother's Day to spend time with our family. He flew out mid-day Wednesday, the day of the show, after spending time with the children. When we spoke before the show, we discussed plans for a vacation over Memorial Day and other things we wanted to do. When we spoke after the show, I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different. When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him. What happened is inexplicable and I am hopeful that further medical reports will provide additional details. I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life.

The outpouring of love and support from his fans, friends and family means so much more to us than anyone can know. Thank you for that, and for understanding how difficult this is for us.

Toxicology tests are pending; we will update this post as more information becomes available.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone now or text START to 741741 to message with the Crisis Text Line.

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