Cocaine amongst medicine found in Carrie Fisher's machine, says coroner

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Carrie Fisher’s autopsy report shows the actress had cocaine in her system when she fell ill on a plane last year, but investigators could not determine what impact the cocaine and other drugs found in her system had on her death.

The report released Monday states Fisher may have taken cocaine three days before the Dec. 23 flight on which she became ill. She died four days later.

About Cocaine
Cocaine, also known as coke, is a strong stimulant mostly used as a recreational drug. It is commonly snorted, inhaled as smoke, or as a solution injected into a vein. Mental effects may include loss of contact with reality, an intense feeling of happiness, or agitation. Physical symptoms may include a fast heart rate, sweating, and large pupils. High doses can result in very high blood pressure or body temperature. Effects begin within seconds to minutes of use and last between five and ninety minutes. Cocaine has a small number of accepted medical uses such as numbing and decreasing bleeding during nasal surgery.
Cocaine is addictive due to its effect on the reward pathway in the brain. After a short period of use, there is a high risk that dependence will occur. Its use also increases the risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, lung problems in those who smoke it, blood infections, and sudden cardiac death. Cocaine sold on the street is commonly mixed with local anesthetics, cornstarch, quinine, or sugar which can result in additional toxicity. Following repeated doses a person may have decreased ability to feel pleasure and be very physically tired.
Cocaine acts by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. This results in greater concentrations of these three neurotransmitters in the brain. It can easily cross the blood–brain barrier and may lead to the breakdown of the barrier. Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant which are mostly grown in South America. In 2013, 419 kilograms were produced legally. It is estimated that the illegal market for cocaine is 100 to 500 billion USD each year. With further processing crack cocaine can be produced from cocaine.
After cannabis, cocaine is the most frequently used illegal drug globally. Between 14 and 21 million people use the drug each year. Use is highest in North America followed by Europe and South America. Between one and three percent of people in the developed world have used cocaine at some point in their life. In 2013 cocaine use directly resulted in 4,300 deaths, up from 2,400 in 1990. The leaves of the coca plant have been used by Peruvians since ancient times. Cocaine was first isolated from the leaves in 1860. Since 1961 the international Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs has required countries to make recreational use of cocaine a crime.

Cocaine among drugs found in Carrie Fisher's system, says coroner

About Carrie
Carrie may refer to:
Carrie (name), a female given name in English speaking countries, usually a pet form of Caroline or Carolyn

It also found traces of heroin and MDMA, which is also known as ecstasy, but that they could not determine when Fisher had taken those drugs. The findings were based on toxicology screenings done on samples taken when the Star Wars actress arrived at a Los Angeles hospital.

Coroner’s officials ruled Fisher died from sleep apnea and a combination of other factors. A news release issued Friday mentioned drugs were found in Fisher’s system, but it did not provide details.

Cocaine among drugs found in Carrie Fisher's system, says coroner

Full coroner’s report released

Monday’s full report contains a detailed explanation of the results, such as why investigators believe Fisher took cocaine at least three days before her flight.

“At this time the significance of cocaine cannot be established in this case,” the report states.

It also states that while heroin is detectable in the system for a briefer period of time, investigators could not determine when Fisher took it or the ecstasy. Toxicology tests also found other opiates in Fisher’s system, including morphine, although the report states the morphine could have been a byproduct of heroin.

“Ms. Fisher suffered what appeared to be a cardiac arrest on the airplane accompanied by vomiting and with a history of sleep apnea. Based on the available toxicological information, we cannot establish the significance of the multiple substances that were detected in Ms. Fisher’s blood and tissue, with regard to the cause of death,” the report states.

Among the factors that contributed to Fisher’s death was buildup of fatty tissue in the walls of her arteries, the coroner’s office said last week.

A phone message left for Fisher’s brother, Todd, was not immediately returned.

Battles with addiction, mental illness

Todd Fisher said Friday he was not surprised that drugs may have contributed to his sister’s death.

“I would tell you, from my perspective that there’s certainly no news that Carrie did drugs,” Todd Fisher said. He noted that his sister wrote extensively about her drug use, and that many of the drugs she took were prescribed by doctors to try to treat her mental health conditions.

Fisher long battled drug addiction and mental illness. She said she smoked pot at 13, used LSD by 21 and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 24. She was treated with electroshock therapy and medication.

“I am not shocked that part of her health was affected by drugs,” Todd Fisher said.

He said his sister’s heart condition was probably worsened by her smoking habit, as well as the medications she took. “If you want to know what killed her, it’s all of it,” he said.