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Published:October 20th, 2011 22:35 EST
Recovery Specialist and Bestselling Author Dr. Arnold Washton on Propofol

Recovery Specialist and Bestselling Author Dr. Arnold Washton on Propofol

By SOP newswire2

Propofol (aka Diprivan) is a not a a sleep medication! It is a sedative-hypnotic drug used mainly to prepare patients for general anesthesia or to put them into a "twighlight" state for an invasive procedure like outpatient orthopedic surgery or colonoscopy.

It is a milky white substance appropriately nicknamed "milk of amnesia".

Using propofol as a nighttime sleep medication to treat insomnia is far outside the boundaries of usual or accepted medical practice. In general, propofol is used in clinical practice only by physicians and surgeons specifically trained to administered anesthesia and preferably only by a board-certified anesthesiologist.

Using propofol to help someone sleep at night is like using a sledge hammer to drive a nail.

Propofol is not an addictive drug. It produces no euphoria or "high" and the recipient generally has total amnesia for the time they are under the influence of propofol. They are essentially unconscious, although breathing on their own. The higher the dose, the deeper the sedation.

That being said, however, it is quite possible that Michael Jackson became obsessed with getting propofol and perhaps became very anxious/agitated if the medication was not made readily available to him because he knew that it was the one and only way he could reliably get to sleep, especially in the midst of a heavy work schedule like preparing for a big concert.

It makes no sense to think of Michael Jackson as having been "addicted" to propofol. A more likely explanation is that he became increasingly tolerant to other (more standard) sleep medications to a point where no matter how much of these meds he took he still couldn`t get to sleep. His body/brain became immune to these drugs. Apparently at some point a decision was made to switch to using propofol since its effectiveness would not be blocked by the patient`s tolerance to these other drugs and if given in sufficient dose there was every reason to expect that propofol would in fact induce sleep.

Because propofol is so short-acting, it must be given via a constant IV drip to maintain sedation. But vital signs must be carefully monitored to insure that pulse rate, blood pressure, and breathing are maintained within normal limits.

It appears that primary contributors to the lethal outcome were: (1) using a far more potent and potentially dangerous medication than was called for to treat severe insomnia and, (2) administration of the drug without adequate medical supervision and other essential precautions by a physician not specifically trained to administer anesthetics.


By Arnold Washton

Dr. Arnold M. Washton is an internationally-recognized psychologist and book author who has specialized in treating alcohol and drug abuse since 1975. Recovery Options, his private group practice in New York City and Princeton,NJ provides confidential personalized treatment for executives, professionals, and other high-functioning adults. For additional information about Dr. Washton and his practice, please visit In addition to the abstinence-based treatment offered by Recovery Options, Dr. Washton`s private practice group also offers moderation-focused treatment as an alternative to abstinence for non-dependent problem drinkers who want professional help with reducing their drinking to safer levels.

Private Practice Specializing in Addictive Disorders
New York, NY & Princeton, NJ



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