Actor Heath Ledger died after overdosing on a cocktail of six prescription drugs that included painkillers and anti-anxiety medication, the New York City medical examiner's office ruled today.
"Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine," medical examiner's spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said in a statement.
According to the medical examiner's office, Ledger took "prescribed therapeutic doses ... or less" of each medication he ingested. However, the medications were not meant to be taken together. The cumulative effect was that the actor's brain stem function that controls breathing was impaired and Ledger "fell asleep and never woke up."
The Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed to ABC News that they have launched an investigation into how Ledger obtained the six drugs found in his body. According to an official, the DEA has requested copies of Ledger's autopsy as well as the original police report from the crime scene.
"It would be inconceivable that one doctor would give one patient all of those medications," ABC News medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson said.
Ledger's father, Kim, released a statement saying that "today's results put an end to speculation." Since the actor's death, his family has vehemently denied rumors that his death was anything but accidental.
"While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy," Kim Ledger said. "Heath's accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage."
Ledger, 28, was found dead in his downtown Manhattan apartment Jan. 22 with bottles of prescription drugs nearby. "We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications," said the medical examiner.
News of Ledger's cause of death came as his family prepared to bury him in his hometown of Perth, Australia. On Saturday, stars, including Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, gathered in Los Angeles' Sony Studios to pay tribute to the "Brokeback Mountain" star. Memorial services were held in Los Angeles and New York in the days after his death.
Clips from a January 2006 video of Ledger at a Hollywood drug party were released last week, fueling speculation that drugs were involved in his untimely death. "Entertainment Tonight" broadcasted clips of the video Jan. 30 but decided against airing the entire video after several A-list celebrities protested its wide release.
Michelle Williams, Ledger's ex-fiancee, broke her silence Friday. In her first statement since Ledger died, Williams said, "Please respect our need to grieve privately. My heart is broken." The statement was released by Ledger's spokeswoman.
Williams, 27, and Ledger met while filming "Brokeback Mountain" in 2005. She played his wife in the movie. The couple dated, lived together in Brooklyn, N.Y., and had daughter Matilda in October 2005. Despite rumors about a wedding, the two split in September 2007. It's rumored that his hard partying led to their breakup.
In an interview with The New York Times in November, Ledger revealed that he was taking the sleep medication Ambien to get rest, but to no avail. He had thrown himself into his role as the Joker in "The Dark Knight," the latest film in the Batman franchise, scheduled for release this summer.
"Last week, I probably slept an average of two hours a night," he told the newspaper. "I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.''
Ledger may be the second young actor to die from drug-related causes in 2008. On Jan. 15, actor Brad Renfro, 25, was found dead in his Los Angeles home. Though his cause of death has yet to be determined, he had a history of drug use and alcohol abuse and had been arrested multiple times for drug possession.