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Lethal combo killed artist Thomas Kinkade
Kinkade, one of America's most popular artists, painted more than 1,000 works including cabins, nature scenes and seascapes.
May 8th, 2012
05:35 PM ET

Lethal combo killed artist Thomas Kinkade

The artist Thomas Kinkade, 54, died in April from a lethal combination of alcohol and Valium, according to an autopsy report from the Santa Clara County, California, medical examiner.

Alcohol and Valium, also known as diazepam, are both depressants that slow down the central nervous system. These depressants slow down the brain and also decrease the heart rate, lower the blood pressure and cause lethargy.

“Because your brain will control autonomic function like heart beat, breathing, when the concentration is so high that area of the brain is affected, it does not function,” said Douglas Rohde, supervisor of chemistry and toxicology at Lake County Crime Laboratory in Ohio.  Rohde is not involved in Kinkade’s case.

This could knock a person into a coma, and then breathing and heart beat could stop.

Kinkade’s autopsy report cited "acute ethanol and diazepam intoxication" as the cause of death and the manner of death "accidental."

When the two substances are combined, the alcohol heightens the effects of Valium. This drug is a benzodiazepine, a widely prescribed type of medication. It's prescribed for sedation, sleep and relief from anxiety and muscle spasms.  The drug comes with warnings about alcohol use.

“When the patient mixes alcohol plus Valium, often times the effect can be greater than those alone,” said Bruce Goldberger, professor and director of toxicology at the University of Florida Medicine.  “This phenomenon is known as synergistic.  So 1 plus 1 is not 2, but 3 or 4, demonstrating an enhanced effect, rather than taking the drugs alone.”

Deaths due to this mixture have been commonplace for decades, he added.

The combination could cause euphoria, but the mix is highly risky because it, “essentially shuts down the normal processes of the brain which can lead to death,” Goldberger said.

Kinkade also had heart disease, according to the autopsy. But it was not listed as a cause of death. His brother had previously told the San Jose Mercury News  that the artist had battled alcoholism for four or five years.


soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Nophah Kingweigh

    If you get lucky (after taking too much valium with booze) you will simply black out, and never recover the memories of what you did. Not that anything like that has ever happened to me...

    May 8, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • je

      that is an irresponsible post.

      May 8, 2012 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      Try Restoril or Ativan for an added effect...

      May 8, 2012 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
    • bre

      HEY Billy, just to let you know. sounds like you take a number of things so you probably have what is known as a "high tolerance" to certain meds. valium is a benzo, and no, it's not as weak as you would like to make it out to be. you prolly don't feel anything from it because of other drugs, rx or otherwise, that you have taken or still do. if this artist hasnt done any benzos or anything before, then yes, he could most certainly die from the combo.

      May 9, 2012 at 17:47 | Report abuse |
    • flat

      billy. you have some of the stupidest posts in this thread. youre either a highschool kid who thinks its fun to kick around a few pills and booze and hasnt died from it yet, or youre just a troll. just because you dont "get high" on valium doesnt make it weak or not dangerous, just means your chemistry is resilient to that chemical. stop acting like a tough guy and bragging on your chemical prowess. this dude died from drinking and taking valium. its been happening for many many years. just because you think you are a tough guy and can eat 500 valium and sit still on your bench doesnt give you a medal. get over yourself.

      May 9, 2012 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
  2. Billy

    Synergistic effect with Valium? Give me a break, it is Valium not Phenobarbital! Valium is the wussiest of benzos!
    Either this man downed more than a 1/5 of hard liquor with an entire bottle of Valium, or this is BS.
    Now that I've said it, I am starting to think that is what happened, but that would not be accidental. Suicide...

    May 8, 2012 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Brandt

    Prescription Drugs have robbed far too many people of their dignity and lives. Big Pharma is the REAL drug cartel in North America. Their overmedicating of the American public through obscene advertising leads to nearly 100,000 deaths per year! Prescription drugs are more dangerous than any felony drug substance in the world including heroin, cocaine and even alcohol combined. Read about this issue and what’s killing people at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/07/illustration-friday-800-milligrams.html

    May 8, 2012 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • je

      You are correct and I appreciate your responsible comment.

      May 8, 2012 at 18:40 | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      Come on its not like you can go into seizures and die from benzodiazpine withdrawls or anything, oh wait, nevermind you can. Pot helped me get off Benzos, now I am completely sober, but thank god for the pot when I needed it.

      I have known a few to die from the legal prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco but for some reason I cannot think of anyone I've know of dying from pot.

      May 8, 2012 at 18:42 | Report abuse |
    • Rae Ann Pointer

      To what extent is Kinkade responsible?

      May 9, 2012 at 13:21 | Report abuse |
    • erica1112

      Here we go again – blaming the drug companies... because they are the one's holding guns to your heads forcing you to take drug. Bottom line is the everyone wants the easy way out... just take a pill to fix your health and heart. How about some exercise and healthy eating? No... because that requires effort. Most chronic diseases are caused by LIFE STYLE CHOICES. Still – if you get with cancer or something serious, you'll be the first one knocking of the doors of those pharmaceutical cartels. You probably think illness is all a conspiracy created by the drug companies, too (because people that work for drug companies don't get sick, right?). What a riot!

      May 9, 2012 at 15:54 | Report abuse |
    • Michael S.

      Alchohol is toxic to human tissue. ALL prescription drugs are poison, I take a lot of medicine for my many health issues and I read the fine print. I do NOT mix the two, if a drink with a certain meal is wanted, certain pills are not taken then – period.

      May 9, 2012 at 17:52 | Report abuse |
  4. tbone

    Surprise- No one is leaving feedback. This guy was a total sellout in the art market.

    May 8, 2012 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sonas76

      Nothing of value was lost.

      May 9, 2012 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
  5. je

    I work at poison control and let me assure you valium and ethanol are no joke. to make the statement that valium is a weak benzodiazpine is inaccurate. Valium is very strong and mixed with the wrong meds will kill you. People are irresponsible with medicatinos and as a result the number of people dying from accidental overdoses is rising. More people are dying from prescription medications than in car accidents.

    May 8, 2012 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Billy

      Valium is the weakest benzodiazpine, I've never been able to even feel them. Valium is known to be the weakest, it is not just my opinion.

      May 8, 2012 at 18:44 | Report abuse |
  6. Seth

    Unfortunately, many don't understand how powerful benzos can be, and don't pay attention to warning labels. Very sad.

    May 8, 2012 at 18:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Billy

      Valium is not a REAL benzo, it is as weak as can be. If this guy died from the combo of the two it was suicide, you'd have to eat a bottle of these on top of drinking a 1/5 of hard liquor.

      Eating a bottle of Valium by itself will not kill you, although you may sleep for a couple of days and lose your memories.

      May 8, 2012 at 18:54 | Report abuse |
  7. SC

    How stupid can you be to combine Valium & alcohol in any amount?

    May 8, 2012 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Billy

      It is actually pretty safe, valium is really weak, and the synergistic effect is for the most part BS for valium and alcohol. If he died from this it had to have been suicide, especially if he was familiar with taking these drugs, which he was.

      May 8, 2012 at 21:02 | Report abuse |
  8. Billy

    Now if he had taken phenobarbital and drank alcohol, that is totally retarded, just ask Marilyn Monroe.

    May 8, 2012 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RJNM1980

      and Judy Garland !

      May 9, 2012 at 18:48 | Report abuse |
  9. Jack Reacher

    Agree with you all who say something else had o be going on here. In Pharmacy School we learned that you could tke a whole bottle of Valium and not die. The experts quoted in the article were toxicologists and crime lab "experts". If he did from this combo, he knew what he was doing.

    May 8, 2012 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. brenda

    WHEN WILL THE GOVERNMENT CRACK DOWN ON THESE OVERPAID DRUG DEALERS? AKA DOCTORS. THATS WHY ELVIS DIED , MICHAEL JACKSON ... AND COUNTLESS OTHERS, WHO DO THEY HAVE TO OVER PRESCRIBE MEDS. TO BEFORE THY'RE STOPPED? IT'S SAD!!!

    May 9, 2012 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fred

      Personal responsibility here IMO.

      98% of physicians are responsible when prescribing medications and they MUST have access to treat pain and anxiety with all mediactions that exist. Let them be doctors and stop blaming the 98% of responsible ones for the 2% of irresponsible ones.

      May 9, 2012 at 08:17 | Report abuse |
    • cindy

      It's like blaming guns for killing people, dude. Anyone with a brain knows NOT to mix alcohol with downers. It's Darwin at work here.

      May 9, 2012 at 18:23 | Report abuse |
  11. kc

    Good lord people, are you really going to go back and forth online arguing about how strong this or that drug is? You just sound so dumb. Give it a rest already.

    May 9, 2012 at 10:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jb

      Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 9, 2012 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
  12. palintwit

    I predict that someday soon the Sarah Palin family trailer will become as big a vacation destination as Graceland. Baggers and birthers from the four corners of the bible belt will make the pilgrimage, gladly paying $25, $35, or more for the chance to tour Sarah Palin's trailer and to go out back and see the actual outhouse where she took her morning dump.

    May 9, 2012 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • M. Bachmann

      As a 'Bagger and a Birther, I would gladly and PROUDLY pay $100 to see where Sarah Palin took her morning dumps.

      May 9, 2012 at 16:39 | Report abuse |
  13. cleshflesh

    cleshflesh

    May 9, 2012 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. willya

    And yet cannabis is still illegal

    May 9, 2012 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. wavejump1100

    valium is lame xanax is much better. people benefit greatly from pain killers and benzos lets not overreact when irresponsible people OD. alcohol and driving dont mix either but no one wants to illegalize cars.

    May 9, 2012 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Rasta

    If he had relaxed with something that grew out of the ground, he'd still be alive today. What a waste.

    May 10, 2012 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Joe Sixpack

    Bob Ross's best student.

    May 10, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. happy

    ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

    May 10, 2012 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Mark Seibold

    The discussions here on a death like this seem to always raise questions about what others want to claim that they know or don't know anything about the actual chemistry of pharmaceutical drugs. I see no evidence here in the story or facts from others in the comments about why Kinkade had resorted to this dangerous combination other than conjecture that he wanted the high to escape his alcoholic depression. It is sad that he had a family and children and all that money but was apparently unhappy. I would like others here that comment to inform us if they are artists. Thank you, Mark Seibold, Retired IT Technician, Awarded and Published in NASA Artist-Astronomy Educator, Portland Oregon

    May 11, 2012 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 24, 2012 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 24, 2012 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kate

      I think you need to give the Valium a break, you've had enough

      November 16, 2012 at 00:14 | Report abuse |
  22. connie

    This is what is going to happen to my friend. His Doolicctor knows he is an alcaholic,as he went to his doctor drunk before,and he has told his doctor he is addicted to the valiums and his booze. So why his doctor continues writting him the valiums is way beyond me..to me he will kill him,cause he knows what he is doing to himself with them..help someone!

    August 23, 2012 at 01:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. peter rogulski

    i would rather die from alcohol and valium then end up in a fema camp where they will cut your head off.. obama has ordered 130000 gilitines. kill your selr before before going to a fema camp. i will fight as long as i can, then i will do my self in. i am a retired army man and i fought in the vietnam war for 3 miserable years, which was hell on earth. I was a infantry platoon sgt i seen a lot of good men die over there including my own. a platoon consists of approximately 40 men. as my mother said before she died, there are worst things then dying., and that is the truth as i have already been in hell. just wait to our population starts rioting because of lack of food and drinkable water. and then you will see hell for yourselves

    August 5, 2013 at 06:18 | Report abuse | Reply

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