Until the high-profile death of music legend Michael Jackson, it is possible that many of us would never have been familiar with the medication Propofol, even though it is possible we may have received it in conjunction with a number of medical procedures. Unfortunately, Michael Jackson’s death and the subsequent trial of his personal physician have put Propofol “on the map.”
What Is Propofol?
Propofol is a short-acting drug that is delivered intravenously either as a sedative agent or as part of general anesthesia. The drug is used by veterinarians, but in humans it is used to maintain anesthesia, is given as a sedative agent to ventilated adults, and is used as a sedative for endoscopic patients. Since Propofol is not a pain-relieving drug, it may be combined with opioids to provide pain relief.
Propofol may provide users a sense of mild euphoria as they emerge from a sedated state. It also is known to cause hallucinations and create a feeling of disinhibition. Some doctors refer to the white medication as “milk of amnesia.” Its ability to induce a loss of awareness has made it useful during procedures such as endoscopy. The drug reduces anxiety and tension while promoting relaxation and sleep.
Side Effects of Propofol
The pleasurable effects of Propofol are severely counterbalanced by its side effects and potential for danger. Propofol causes such difficulty breathing that it is never appropriate to administer the drug unless the person receiving it will be monitored and perhaps even in conjunction with oxygen being administered (depending upon dosage). Other effects include swelling of the throat, rapid heartbeat/palpitations, lightheadedness/fainting, and numbness in the extremities.
A significant portion of Dr. Murray’s (Mr. Jackson’s physician) trial will focus on the doctor’s attentiveness to Mr. Jackson after the drug was administered. Anesthesiologists report that Propofol is a safe drug when properly used, but also warn that the medication does not interact well with drugs from the benzodiazepine family. The combination so dramatically diminishes the ability to breathe, along with increasing the likelihood of heart failure, that one physician compared it to jumping up and down on thin ice. Mr. Jackson reportedly took a large dose of Lorazepam on the day he died.
Normally it would be difficult to accidentally overdose on Propofol. Over 200mg of the drug would need to be administered in order for overdose to occur. People begin to experience a state of sedation with as little as 40mg of the substance.
Propofol is a drug with addictive properties even though it is not scheduled as a controlled substance. It is a dangerous medication that should never be used without professional supervision. Given the risks associated with its use outside of medical procedures, someone who chooses to use the drug recreationally would need a desperate reason for wanting to “check out” of reality.