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FAQs about the Michael Jackson Drug Propofol

Tim Boyer's picture

Frequently asked questions about Propofol, popularly known recently as “The Michael Jackson Drug,” are a hot topic for physicians today from patients who are facing surgery. These FAQ’s by surgical patients are the direct result of Michael Jackson’s death two years ago from an apparent overdose of the sedating medication Propofol. While Propofol has been known to cause overdose deaths similar to that of Michael Jackson, all cases were attributed to illegal use outside of a hospital setting without the monitoring needed by a trained medical professional. Medical authorities maintain that the Michael Jackson case where Propofol was administered by a doctor is a matter of negligence on the part of Michael Jackson’s physician and that Propofol is safe for surgical patients.

To allay patient fears of Propofol, the American Society of Anesthesiologists released a FAQ list regarding Propofol, which is summarized below with the addition of supplemental questions and answers.

Is Diprivan the same drug as Propofol?
Yes. Marketed as Diprivan by AstraZeneca, it is also known as Propofol—a common anesthetic used to produce general anesthesia during surgery or sedation for patients in intensive care.

Can Propofol be used in the home?
No. There is no possible reason for this drug to be prescribed for home use. Propofol is an extremely powerful drug that is only available to medical personnel and requires professional administration.

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Is Propofol a controlled substance?
No. However, The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has passed a proposal to make Propofol a controlled substance, which is currently pending.

Who can administer Propofol?
Propofol should only be administered by a licensed anesthesiologist.

Are there side effects to using Propofol?
Yes. Propofol is a powerful drug that depresses respiratory and cardiac function and therefore requires careful administration and constant monitoring of the patient.

Does Propofol cause pain?
Propofol is administered with an IV and therefore there is pain with the needle injection along with a slight burning sensation when the Propofol is being administered. Lidocaine is typically used to reduce the pain prior to the Propofol injection.

Does Propofol help you sleep?
Propofol does produce a drowsiness that removes anxiety, fear and pain typical of a general anesthesia; however, this is a different state of consciousness than a normal, restful sleep.

What does “milk of anesthesia” refer to?
Propofol resembles milk in color and in slang terms is sometimes called “milk of anesthesia” by hospital personnel, possibly in reference to “milk of magnesia” that is used as a laxative to relieve constipation and as an antacid to relieve indigestion.