When used by trained anaesthetists, anaesthetic drugs are safe and provide the means to allow people to undergo life saving treatment. However, when used by unqualified people, the effects can be very far from beneficial.
Anaesthetic drugs have been used as murder weapons, to execute criminals, during torture and they can be used recreationally. Exploitation of these drugs for non-anaesthetic use is sometimes justified as being for the greater good. However, anaesthetic drugs are powerful and dangerous in untrained hands.
An example of this is the Moscow theatre siege of October 2002. A group of forty to fifty armed Chechens took 850 people hostage and demanded that Russia withdraw from Chechnya. After two and a half days, a chemical agent was pumped into the theatre to break the siege. The chemical agent had been derived from Fentanyl, a drug used as an anaesthetic. As a result of this, thirty-nine of the hostage takers were killed. Sadly 129 hostages also died, all but one of them from the effects of inhaling the gas.
The misuse of anaesthetic drugs and painkillers is often brought to our attention when it involves someone famous. Michael Jackson is probably the most famous celebrity to die as a result of misusing anaesthetic drugs and painkillers. A list of some notable people who used drugs is given below:
Benjamin Franklin died 1 December 1788, cause of death unknown, used opium
Edgar Allan Poe died 7 October 1849, cause of death unknown, used opium
Robert Louis Stevenson died 3 December 1894 of cerebral haemorrhage aged 44, used opium
Charlie Parker died 12 March 1955 of lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer aged 34, used heroin
Billie Holiday died 17 July 1959 of liver and heart disease aged 44 used heroin and was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying
River Phoenix died 31 October 1993 of an overdose of cocaine, morphine, diazepam, ephedrine and marijuana aged 23
Kurt Cobain died 5 April 1994, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, used heroin
Jerry Garcia did 9 August 1995 of a heart attack aged 53, used heroin
Heath Ledger died 22 January 2008 of an accidental toxic combination of prescription drugs (oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine)
Michael Jackson died 25 June 2009 of acute propofol intoxication, the benzodiazepine effect contributed to his death. The autopsy found propofol, benzodiazepmines, nordiazepam, diazepam, lorazepam, lidocaine, midazolam and ephedrine present in his body.