Michael Jackson: Did Addiction to Propofol Ensure Early Death?

Michael Jackson: Did Addiction to Propofol Ensure Early Death?AP Photo/ABC
The death of Michael Jackson has made the powerful sedative propofol a household term, but experts and a former addict say that if the King of Pop were truly addicted his demise was only a matter of time.

The death of Michael Jackson has brought notoriety to the powerful sedative propofol, but experts and a former addict say that if the King of Pop was addicted, his demise was only a matter of time.

"I never had seen him take anything, but ... the aftermath was devastating," Jackson's close friend Uri Geller told Britain's ITV1 this weekend. "I couldn't wake him up one day. I said Michael open your eyes. Are you OK?"

Geller and others close to Jackson had good reason to worry, according to Dr. Omar Manejwala of the William J. Farley Center at Williamsburg Place in Virginia.

VIDEO: Speculation continues that Michael Jackson may have been addicted to propofol.Play

Manejwala, an expert on propofol, also known by its trade name Diprivan, said the drug is particularly dangerous compared with other sedatives.

"I would say that people die much quicker from this agent than they would from other agents," he said.

Thayne Flora, a former nurse anesthetist, first tried propofol in the early 1990s looking for relief from chronic headaches and family problems. Soon, she was addicted.

"You know, part of it is wanting to sleep and part of it is wanting to escape from pain, emotional, physical," she said. "And it just makes you go away for a while and you don't have to cope with those things anymore."

Jackson died June 25 of an apparent cardiac arrest, weeks before he was to kick off his 50-concert "This Is It" tour at London's O2 Arena.

Several of Jackson's doctors are now under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration with the focus narrowing on Dr. Conrad Murray, the doctor who last saw Jackson alive. Investigators want to know whether Murray administered propofol to the entertainer. Murray and his lawyer have refused to answer questions about whether he administered the powerful drug to Jackson.

The coroner's office is also being looked at to determine whether employees leaked or sold information relating to Jackson's death.

Murray has repeatedly denied giving Jackson anything that could have killed him, but a raid on his Houston office last week collected evidence that could be used against the doctor on possible manslaughter charges.

Law enforcement officials close to the investigation have told ABC News that propofol was among the evidence removed from the rented Los Angeles mansion where Jackson died.

Jackson's nurse Cherilyn Lee, whose medical records were also subpeonaed last week, spoke out in the days after the singer's death, saying she refused to give him propofol even as she could hear him pleading on the phone.

Lee said she was especially concerned about Jackson when, in the days before he died, she got a call from someone at the house.

"And I could hear Michael in the background, 'Tell her. Tell her that one side of my body is hot ... and one side of my body is cold,'" she said last month.

Geller Warned Michael Jackson: 'You Will Kill Yourself'

Experts say people who abuse propofol run the risk of sudden respiratory arrest.

TMZ reported overnight that paramedics found Jackson with an IV in his arm alongside an empty IV bag and an oxygen tank, and that Murray got in the way as emergency workers tended to Jackson at the scene.

Geller, an author and psychic, said he knew his friend couldn't survive as an addict.

"'Michael,' I shouted, 'You will kill yourself!'" Geller said.

Jackson's friends and family have run the gamut when questioned about his drug use, with some saying it was obvious he was hooked on prescription drugs and others saying they saw nothing out of the ordinary.

"Many of the patients who have Diprivan addiction have told me 'I wasn't trying to get high. I was trying to disappear. I was trying not to exist,'" Manejwala said.

And while many hadn't heard of the drug until after Jackson died, "Anesthesiology News" reported in 2007 that abuse of propofol increased fivefold. Because it's so short-acting, addicts -- typically medical professionals -- may inject themselves dozens of times a day.

Flora, who's been clean for nine years, said she used Diprivan to get an elusive night's sleep. Jackson, a known insomniac, reportedly used the drug for the same reason.

" I would have done just about anything to sleep, I really felt crazy. It made perfect sense to me to try Diprivan," Flora said. " I knew I wouldn't stay asleep. I was desperate enough that I just used it anyway."

Flora said she entered treatement for her addiction at her husband's insistence.

"My personal relationships suffered because it's such an isolating disease you pull away from people that you love, from your friends, from your family," she said. "But I got back to the other side, and that's the good news."