What Dangers Did Diprivan Pose to Michael Jackson?

The anesthetic propofol was a "contributing factor" to the pop star's death.

ByABC News
July 28, 2009, 1:04 PM

July 29, 2009— -- The role of the powerful anesthetic propofol, commonly known by the trade name Diprivan in the demise of pop icon Michael Jackson appears more likely now that ABC News has learned from investigators that they will list the drug as a "contributing factor" to his death.

Sources have told ABC News that propofol was not the only drug found in Jackson's system during an autopsy following his death on June 25 – a finding that suggests the star could have been the latest famous figure to succumb to a deadly cocktail of medications.

However, doctors say propofol is certainly dangerous enough on its own to bring about death if improperly used. In a July 24 interview, Dr. Deepak Chopra, a celebrity physician and close friend of Jackson, said that the pop star may have even once hinted to him that he had abused the drug.

"On one occasion ... he said to me, 'Deepak, did you know there's something that takes you right to the edge, to the valley of death and it brings you back. Do you know anything about it?' And at that time I had never even thought of Diprivan or this anesthetic," Chopra told Chris Connelly in an ABC News Nightline interview.

"Well that's now in hindsight, that's Diprivan, isn't it? It takes you right to the edge if it's taken in sufficient amounts, and it takes you back. It's a short-acting anesthetic."

Propofol is a sedative that is usually administered to patients who are undergoing surgery or another medical procedure. It is a fast-acting drug, with most patients receiving it losing consciousness within a matter of seconds.

The potency of propofol as an anesthetic is so widely known, in fact, that in anesthesiology circles, the drug, a white liquid, is nicknamed "milk of amnesia."

For more on the investigation into Michael Jackson's death, watch "Prescription for Death," on "Primetime: Crime," Tonight at 10 p.m. ET

While propofol is most often used to sedate patients before a medical procedure, it is also one that palliative care workers have been known to administer to terminal patients who are in pain or who have weeks or days to live.