Fisher’s autopsy offers new details about the circumstances of the actress’s sudden death.
Three days after the Los Angeles County coroner’s office revealed Carrie Fisher officially died of “sleep apnea and other factors,” an autopsy made public on Monday shows that Fisher had several drugs in her system when she became sick last December.
“The report released Monday states Fisher may have taken cocaine three days before the December 23 flight on which she became ill,” according to the Associated Press report on the autopsy. “It also found traces of heroin and MDMA, which is also known as ecstasy, but that they could not determine when Fisher had taken those drugs.”
“Ms. Fisher suffered what appeared to be a cardiac arrest on the airplane accompanied by vomiting and with a history of sleep apnea,” the autopsy states. “Based on the available toxicological information, we cannot establish the significance of the multiple substances that were detected in Ms. Fisher’s blood and tissue, with regard to the cause of death.”
The coroner’s office also stated that a buildup of fatty tissue in the walls of Fisher’s arteries was a contributing factor to her death.
In a statement Friday, Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, told __, “My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding those diseases.”, “My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding those diseases.”
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times last week, Fisher’s brother, Todd Fisher, said he was not surprised to discover that substances may have played a role in the actress’s death, as they “slowly but surely put her health in jeopardy over many, many years.”
“I honestly hoped we would grow old together,” he added, “but after her death, nobody was shocked.”
Fisher has said that she first smoked marijuana at 13, experimented with LSD by 21, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 24.
“I never could take alcohol,” Fisher told the Herald-Tribute in 2013 of her substance-abuse problem. “I always said I was allergic to alcohol, and that’s actually a definition of alcoholism—an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind . . . By the time I was 21 it was LSD. I didn’t love cocaine, but I wanted to feel any way other than the way I did, so I’d do anything.”
“Drugs made me feel more normal,” Fisher told Psychology Today in 2001. “They contained me.”
In 1987, two years after taking an accidental overdose through a combination of prescription medication and sleeping pills, Fisher published a semi-autographical account of the experience in her novel Postcards From the Edge. The novel, about drug use, depression, identity, and a complicated mother-daughter relationship, was adapted into a movie starring Meryl Streep ****and Shirley MacLaine.
“I couldn’t stop, or stay stopped. It was never my fantasy to have a drug problem,” Fisher told People in 1987. “I’d say, ‘Oh, f–k it, I haven’t done anything for a couple of months, why not? Let’s celebrate not doing them by doing them.’ I got into trouble each time. I hated myself. I just beat myself up. It was very painful.”
In the three decades since, Fisher continued to write, speak, and joke about both her drug and mental health problems. In her statement last week, Fisher’s daughter said she hopes that the actress’s death will help people who live with the same kind of illnesses her mother did.
“She talked about the shame that torments people and their families confronted by these diseases,” Lourd told People. “I know my mom, she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure.”