Legendary bassist Billy Sheehan (THE WINERY DOGS, MR. BIG) says that the death of Chris Cornell was "a terrible, unnecessary loss" and he blames the U.S. pharmaceutical industry for the prescription drug abuse epidemic that is sweeping the nation.
Cornell's family said they believe that the side effects of the prescription drug Ativan — which can cause worsening depression and thoughts of self-harm in rare cases — may have influenced the singer to commit suicide last month after a SOUNDGARDEN concert in Detroit. The toxicology report appears to show Cornell had ingested four tablets prior to his death.
When asked by Metal Wani in a new interview what his reaction was to the news of Cornell's passing, Sheehan said (hear audio below): "I was quite angry about it, 'cause I do believe — and this is just one man's opinion — based on what I've seen in media… I believe his wife [was] bringing this up that the pharmaceutical situation in the world is so dreadful and so many people are dying because they mistakenly take two [pills], or they forget they took one and they take another one, or they forget to take it and they go into withdrawals.
"When you see a warning on a pharmaceutical that says, as a side effect, ideations of murder and suicide, I would think twice before… I just can't believe that stuff is on the market, and there's gotta be a better way," he continued. "I'm not sure what that better way is, but we've got an amazing world with a lot of intelligent people and incredible science, there's gotta be a better way than these particular substances, which are just so dangerous. You accidentally forget and have a drink on top of it and you could die. And more people die now from pharmaceutical drugs, taken according to the directions, prescribed lawfully and legally, than traffic accidents. An amazing statistic."
Sheehan added: "So I feel for [Chris's] family and friends and fans. It's a terrible, unnecessary loss. And I hope… The only good that can come out of it is people stepping back and saying, 'We've gotta do something about this.'"
Cornell had a number of prescription drugs in his system at the time of his death, according to a completed toxicology report released by Michigan's Wayne County Medical Examiner on June 2. But assistant medical examiner Theodore Brown wrote in his post mortem report that Cornell died from hanging and that "drugs did not contribute to the cause of death."
He added: "Based on the circumstances surrounding this death and the autopsy findings, the manner of death is suicide." The examiner noted that Cornell's injuries "were all consistent with hanging, partially suspended by the resistance exercise band."
The report revealed that Cornell had Naloxone a.k.a. Narcan, a sedative called Butalbital, Lorazepam a.k.a. Ativan, a decongestant called Pseudoephedrine and barbiturates in his system when he was found dead. He was 52.
He also had caffeine in his body from No-Doz tablets he had ingested prior to his death.
Cornell had four doses of the anxiety medication Ativan in his system. The medical examiner noted that while the level in his blood was higher than the average dosage, it was lower than the amount associated with those whose deaths have been tied to the drug, which can cause suicidal thoughts.
Reports that Cornell had needle marks on his left arm proved true — but the punctures were from EMTs who administered Narcan in an attempt to revive him.
In a statement issued following the release of the report, the singer's wife, Vicky Cornell, said: "Many of us who know Chris well, noticed that he wasn't himself during his final hours and that something was very off. We have learned from this report that several substances were found in his system. After so many years of sobriety, this moment of terrible judgment seems to have completely impaired and altered his state of mind. Something clearly went terribly wrong and my children and I are heartbroken and are devastated that this moment can never be taken back."
She added: "We very much appreciate all of the love we have received during this extremely difficult time and are dedicated to helping others in preventing this type of tragedy."
Vicky Cornell had previously questioned the medical examiner's conclusion that her husband committed suicide by hanging himself in a hotel room on May 18.
MR. BIG's ninth studio album, "Defying Gravity", will be released on July 7 via Frontiers Music Srl.