Drugs and Elvis Presley's Death at 42

Elvis Presley death
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Elvis Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, in the bathroom of his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 42 at the time of death. He had been on the toilet but had fallen off onto the floor, where he lay in a pool of his own vomit. He was found by his girlfriend, Ginger Alden. Panicked, his staff contacted an ambulance which rushed him to Baptist Memorial Hospital; after several attempts to revive him, he died at 3:30 pm CST. His autopsy was performed at 7 p.m.

Baptist wasn't the closest hospital to Graceland, but Presley's doctor, George Nichopoulos, known as "Dr. Nick," ordered that it be sent there because he knew the staff was discreet.

Elvis' Initial Cause of Death Wasn't Accurate

The official coroner's report lists "cardiac arrhythmia" as the cause of Presley's death, but this was later admitted to be a ruse entered into by the Presley family along with autopsy physicians Dr. Jerry T. Francisco, Dr. Eric Muirhead, and Dr. Noel Florredo to cover up the real cause of death, a cocktail of prescribed drugs, taken in doses no doctor normally would have prescribed. They included the painkillers morphine and Demerol; chlorpheniramine, an antihistamine; the tranquilizers Placidyl and Valium; codeine, an opiate, Ethinamate, prescribed at the time as a sleeping pill; quaaludes; and a barbiturate, or depressant, that has never been identified.

It has also been rumored that diazepam, Amytal, Nembutal, Carbrital, Sinutab, Elavil, Avenal, and Valmid were found in his system at death.

The phrase "cardiac arrhythmia," in the context of the coroner's report, means little more than a stopped heart. The report initially tried to attribute the arrhythmia to cardiovascular disease, but Elvis' personal physician has stated that Presley had no such chronic problems at the time. Most of Elvis' many health problems have been traced to rampant abuse of prescription drugs.

Elvis had visited his dentist the day before he died to have a temporary crown put in. It has been suggested that the codeine the dentist gave him that day resulted in anaphylactic shock, which contributed to his death. He previously had suffered allergic reactions to the drug.

Elvis' Doctor Was Disciplined

The Tennessee Board of Health initiated proceedings against Dr. Nick, and evidence presented at the hearings indicated that he had prescribed thousands of doses of medication to Elvis. In his defense, the doctor said that he prescribed the painkillers to keep Elvis from seeking out illegal street drugs and to control his addiction. Nichopoulos was acquitted in those proceedings, but in 1995, the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners permanently suspended his medical license. 

Elvis was initially buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis, but his body later was moved to Graceland.

Additional information from biography.com.