Did cocaine kill stentorian pitchman Billy Mays? Did it contribute to his death? Was it merely a factor? Was the beloved loudmouth just another Atlantic City cokehead? And are we safe again from the deadly effects of falling suitcases? The seemingly circumspect report from the Hillsborough County, Florida medical examiner's office report provides fuel for a free-for-all over legal and illegal drug use:
From the presence of metabolites of cocaine and the absence of cocaine itself, it was concluded that Mr. Mays used cocaine in the few days prior to his death but not immediately prior to death.
"We were totally unaware of any non prescription drug usage and are actively considering an independent evaluation of the autopsy results," Mays' family says in a statement that blames the infomercial star's hypertension. But as this AP description indicates, you can make quite a chemical cocktail of yourself without breaking any laws:
The autopsy also found low concentrations of ethyl alcohol "consistent with social consumption of a few beverages" as well as the narcotic drugs hydrocodone, oxycodone and tramadol. Mays had prescriptions for the drugs — which were found in therapeutic or subtherapeutic concentrations — to ease hip pain.
In addition, the tests found evidence of two tranquilizers — alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) — which are commonly prescribed for a variety of ailments, including anxiety and insomnia. Both drugs were determined to be in therapeutic or subtherapeutic concentrations.
For the record, the coroner's report lists heart disease as the cause of death, relegating all of the above to possible contributors. Like Frank Sinatra, I'm for anything that gets you through the night (or through your irritable bowel syndrome), be it prayer, pills or a bottle of Jack Daniels. But I've never heard any of those things — let alone a tongue-twisting combination of them — described as being good for the long-term health of your circulatory system.
I'm going to go way out on a limb though, and predict that of all the drugs described above, the illegal one will be the only one you hear about repeatedly this weekend.