by: J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) NFL superstar linebacker Junior Seau was a terror on the football field, stalking quarterbacks, crushing running backs and menacing tight ends and wide-outs. But in the end, he himself was likely victimized by a healthcare industry that, at times, can be much more predatory than even the most standout defensive player.
At 43 years old and just a few years out of the league, initial reports speculated that he just missed the game of football too much.
But later reports noted that Seau, whom most friends remembered as an upbeat guy, had long suffered from a sleep disorder, and as such, was a regular user of Ambien, the most prescribed Big Pharma drug for those who have trouble nodding off at night.
'Yes son, I'm fine'
In the days leading up to his death, Seau partied, bar-hopped, flirted, lifted weights, and lifted spirits. It was his nights that were problematic, however.
His 11-year-old son, Hunter, reported a strange event to his mother, Seau's ex-wife Gina, shortly before his father killed himself. According to a USA Today report, Hunter told his mother he woke up one morning early, around 3 a.m., to let out Rock, a pit bull-mastiff mix. Seeing his father's bedroom light on, he looked inside and saw his father, wide awake, sitting on the bed staring at the television.
Only, the TV wasn't on.
"Dad, are you okay?" Hunter asked, according to Gina.
"Yes, son," his father answered. "I'm fine."
Only, he wasn't. Seau was a long-time sufferer of sleeplessness; he used Ambien a lot, and not always as directed.
On the national level, there has been some discussion about head injuries – concussions – with NFL players, and whether repeated head blows like those regularly incurred on the football field may have led to depression and chronic pain in some of them, including Seau, even if he never reported a concussion in his two decades of play. So much so that dozens of players have sued the league over the injuries, claiming the NFL hid information that chronic traumatic brain injuries can cause a wide range of problems, including the kind of insomnia that Seau suffered.
In fact, says University of North Carolina concussion researcher Kevin Guskiewicz, sleep disorders are common among people who have experienced traumatic brain injury.
Big Ambien user who still couldn't sleep with it
Several friends confirmed that Seau was a big Ambien user. The packaging says not to take the drug if you're drinking, which Seau often did. It also says not to take it if you can't get a full night's sleep on it.
"He told me he usually woke up around 1 or 2 and couldn't go back to sleep," says friend Nancy Emsley, who worked out often with Seau at a local gym, adding that she told him he needed to get eight hours sleep after taking an Ambien.
"He just rolled his eyes," she told USA Today.
"I know he's had a very difficult time sleeping over the year," Mark Walczak, who played with Seau on the Chargers in the early 1990s, said of Seau, who retired after the 2009 season. "I think it's gotten worse and worse. Lack of sleep creates huge anxiety."
He said he saw Seau take a sleep aid during a visit to Miami in September 2005, when Seau played for the Dolphins.
Though approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Ambien's prescribing information includes warnings that suicidal thoughts or actions have been reported by depressed patients using that class of drugs.