Chris Cornell’s Family Issues Statement On Singer's Death

By Victoria Kim 05/24/17

The late rocker's wife recounted the days he spent with his family prior to his death and addressed her personal feelings.

Chris Cornell with wife Vicky Karayiannis-Cornell
Chris Cornell with wife Vicky Karayiannis-Cornell

Last Friday, Vicky Cornell, the wife of the late Chris Cornell, came out with a statement about the singer’s death—ruled a suicide by a medical examiner—as the world struggles to recover from the sudden and tragic news.

“Chris’s death is a loss that escapes words and has created an emptiness in my heart that will never be filled,” Vicky Cornell said in her statement. “As everyone who knew him commented, Chris was a devoted father and husband. He was my best friend. His world revolved around his family first and of course, his music, second.”

Chris, the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, died by suicide last Wednesday, May 17th, at the age of 52. 

Vicky recalled the days leading up to his death. The family was together for Mother’s Day before he flew out to Detroit Wednesday afternoon, the day of his last show. “When we spoke before the show, we discussed plans for a vacation over Memorial Day,” said Vicky.

But after the Detroit show, Vicky noticed something was off with her husband. “He was slurring his words,” she said, “he was different.”

“When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him,” she said.

Security personnel found Chris in his hotel room, unresponsive on the bathroom floor. A medical examiner ruled his death “suicide by hanging.” The results of a full autopsy have yet to be released.

“What happened is inexplicable and I am hopeful that further medical reports will provide additional details,” said Vicky. “I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life.”

The family’s attorney, Kirk Pasich, elaborated on the family’s concern that Ativan played a major role in Cornell’s suicide, saying they are “disturbed at inferences that Chris knowingly and intentionally took his life.” 

Pasich added, “Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris—or if any substances contributed to his demise. Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages. The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions.”

Given the potentially harmful side effects of long-term use or abuse of Ativan, his family’s suspicions are understandable. Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam, a type of benzodiazepine medication to treat anxiety. 

The drug works by slowing down the nervous system, but prolonged use or abuse can cause a person to build tolerance to the drug and become dependent on it in order to function.

According to Rolling Stone, there has been research that found a correlation between abuse of benzodiazepines and increased risk of suicide. According to experts that spoke with the magazine, the drug can “exacerbate negative feelings in people with depression or a history of suicidal ideation.”

Benzodiazepine medication can also cause people to black out, similar to alcohol. Dr. Joseph Lee told Rolling Stone that taking too many benzos can cause a person to “engage in disinhibited and dangerous behaviors” including driving while under the influence, committing crimes, and attempting suicide.

If you or someone you know needs help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr