Late Thursday morning, rock legend Chris Cornell was found dead in his hotel bathroom. The lead singer and guitarist for Soundgarden and Audioslave had just finished performing a show at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, hours earlier.
According to reports, Cornell's wife grew worried about the singer and asked a “family friend” to check on him. And after physically forcing down the door, Cornell was discovered unresponsive.
Officials initially pointed to suicide, and it was soon revealed that he had hanged himself.
However, his wife since 2004, Vicky, isn't certain that was the case.
Vicky released a statement regarding her husband's death, and she said she hopes “further medical reports will provide additional details."
The statement reads:
“Chris’s death is a loss that escapes words and has created an emptiness in my heart that will never be filled. As everyone who knew him commented, Chris was a devoted father and husband. He was my best friend. His world revolved around his family first and of course, his music, second.”
She continued, saying that they had just spent a loving weekend together for Mother's Day:
“He flew home for Mother’s Day to spend time with our family. He flew out mid-day Wednesday, the day of the show, after spending time with the children. When we spoke before the show, we discussed plans for a vacation over Memorial Day and other things we wanted to do.”
However, after speaking with him over the phone following his Wednesday night show, she knew something was awry:
“I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different. When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him.”
And that's why she believes his suicide may not have been suicide at all — pointing to the medication as the cause (emphasis added):
“What happened is inexplicable and I am hopeful that further medical reports will provide additional details. I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life.”
Ativan is a prescription anti-anxiety medication with listed side effects of “confusion, unusual mood or behavior, [and] thoughts of hurting yourself.”
According to Help Guide, benzodiazepines — the psychoactive drug Ativan classifies under — can lead to suicide (emphasis added):
“Benzodiazepines can worsen cases of pre‐existing depression, and more recent studies suggest that they may potentially lead to treatment-resistant depression. Furthermore, benzodiazepines can cause emotional blunting or numbness and increase suicidal thoughts and feelings.”
In other words, the emotional blunting or numbness described could potentially lead a person taking benzodiazepines to succumb to suicidal thoughts without fully realizing what they are doing.
In an additional statement, Kirk Pasich, the Cornell's family attorney, agreed with Vicky, saying his death must not have been intentional:
"Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris — or if any substances contributed to his demise. Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages.
The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions."
Toxicology reports usually take four to six weeks, so the Cornell family still has a wait before they can be certain about whether Cornell's medication was a contributing cause of his death.
If you or anyone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or 911 for emergencies. You can also visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center online for more information.