Friday, March 23, 2007

Elvis Presley - Abuse of drugs

In her 1985 book, Elvis and Me, his wife Priscilla wrote that the star suffered from severe insomnia and by 1962 when she moved to Graceland he was taking placidyls to get to sleep and began to do so in ever increasing doses. It is thought by some that Presley started his drug habits by taking drugs given to soldiers to keep them awake since they were on late shifts. But, according to author Albert Goldman in his 1990 book Elvis: The Last 24 Hours, the pills were first given to him by Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips. Priscilla recounted how he would wake up at his normal time around 4:00 in the afternoon but would be groggy and irritable for a few hours from the heavy dose of pills. He started taking Dexedrine to wake up. She stated that over time, she saw "problems in Elvis's life, all magnified by taking prescribed drugs."

Priscilla also wrote the two of them tried marijuana but did not like it because it made them ravenously hungry, with extra weight the unwanted result. Although she said her husband abhorred street drugs, she tells in her book how they tried LSD. While they both thought it had been an "extraordinary experience" they were afraid of it and experimented that one time only. During the time when Presley was searching for peace in his life and consulting an Indian guru (as The Beatles and others were doing at the time), he read numerous books including Aldous Huxley's "Doors of Perception" and Timothy Leary's "Psychedelic Experience". In his book, Careless Love, biographer Peter Guralnick discusses in detail the singer's rampant prescription drug abuse. Cliff Gleaves, one of Elvis' friends and a reliable eyewitness, said about the singer's abuse of drugs, in this case speed:

"Elvis didn't care if anyone else took them or not. He was getting off on them. He loved to sit there high and wiggle in the chair, ... just sit there and watch TV. He didn't give a damn whether you did anything. He was going to do what he wanted anyway."

Bernard J. Gallagher writes about the use of drugs: "Social or recreational use is usually harmless, but intensified or compulsive use can prove fatal. This was true in the case of Elvis Presley," Though the singer abused prescription drugs, Priscilla wrote that he never considered it wrong because it was a medical doctor prescribing them and he in fact publicly denounced the use of hard drugs. At a meeting with U.S. President Richard Nixon, Presley even asked the President to appoint him "Federal Agent at Large" for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Although his personal physician, Dr. George C. Nichopoulos, was exonerated in Presley's death, in July 1995 he had his license suspended after the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners found that he had improperly dispensed potentially addictive drugs to a number of his patients.

Priscilla Presley pointed out in her book that even if Elvis would have admitted he needed help, in those days there was no Betty Ford Clinic where someone like him could get treatment. The singer's abuse of prescription drugs increased during the last years of his life, particularly after the breakup of his marriage in 1972.

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