- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2016

Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt has opened up about the recent passing of his wife, 46-year-old writer Michelle McNamara, and says a prescription drug overdose may have caused her death.

The Emmy Award-winning entertainer told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday that his wife took Xanax to help her sleep on the night of April 21.

Mr. Oswalt, 47, said McNamara was ridden with anxiety as a result of working on her latest true-crime book when he suggested she “sleep until you wake up.”

McNamara took some Xanax and went to bed, her husband told The Times.

The comedian recalled driving their daughter to school the following morning before returning with a cup of coffee for his wife about 9:40 a.m. She was still snoring at the time, so he went about his day for around three hours before discovering she had stopped breathing.

Paramedics arrived soon after and pronounced her dead at the scene, the newspaper reported.

The coroner’s office hasn’t released an official cause of death, but the comedian said he thinks Xanax may have played a part.

“I have a feeling it might have been an overdose,” he told The Times. “That’s what the paramedics there were saying while I was screaming and throwing up.”

The “Ratatouille” star described the experience as “the second-worst day of his life,” surpassed only by the day after when he explained his wife’s passing to their daughter, Alice.

McNamara’s death caused her husband to slip into a depression and briefly take up drinking, the comedian told The Times.

“Depression is more seductive” of the two, Mr. Oswalt said. “Its tool is: ‘Wouldn’t it be way more comfortable to stay inside and not deal with people?’ Grief is an attack on life. It’s not a seducer. It’s an ambush or worse. It stands right out there and says: ‘The minute you try something, I’m waiting for you.’”

Six months after his wife’s death, he said he’s been working on an hour of new material largely revolving around his recent experiences. Returning to the stage is “a rebuke to grief, an acceptance of the messiness of life,” he told The Times.

“I’ll never be at 100 percent again, but that won’t stop me from living this,” Mr. Oswalt said.

Prescription benzodiazepines like Xanax cause changes in brain chemistry that suppress the body’s central nervous system, the likes of which can be lethally amplified when combined with other substances.

Overdoses from benzodiazepines including Xanax, Valium and Ativan accounted for 31 percent of the nearly 23,000 prescription drug overdoses that occurred in the U.S. in 2013, according to a report published earlier this year by Dr. Joanna Starrels, an associate professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

“As more benzodiazepines were prescribed, more people have died from overdoses involving these drugs,” she said when her study was published in February.

“In 2013, more than 5 percent of American adults filled prescriptions for benzodiazepines,” she said. “And the overdose death rate increased more than four times from 1996 to 2013.”

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