Patton Oswalt Suggests Wife May Have Died From Accidental Xanax Overdose

By McCarton Ackerman 10/31/16

Oswalt also opened up about his attempt to self-medicate with alcohol after his wife's sudden death.

Patton Oswalt Suggests Wife Died From Accidental Xanax Overdose
Patton Oswalt with his late wife Michelle McNamara

Patton Oswalt is still grieving the sudden and shocking death of his wife Michelle McNamara earlier this year, but the comedian is now beginning to suspect that she passed away from an accidental drug overdose.

McNamara, 46, reportedly passed away in her sleep on April 21. Oswalt recalled that she was stressed over a book project and took Xanax to help her fall asleep. He set coffee for her on their bedside table the next morning, worked for a few hours, then realized she wasn’t breathing when he went to check on her later. She was pronounced dead on arrival by paramedics who rushed to the scene.

“I have a feeling it might have been an overdose,” said the 47-year-old Oswalt in a new interview with the New York Times. “That’s what the paramedics there were saying while I was screaming and throwing up … I was literally blinking trying to get out of this.”

Oswalt attempted to turn to alcohol to self-medicate following McNamara’s death, but said he “found out the hard way these past few months that alcohol really doesn’t help.” He’s instead channeling his energy into his comedy and is set to perform again this Thursday (Nov. 3) at the New York Comedy Festival.

“[Performing was] a rebuke to grief, an acceptance of the messiness of life,” said Oswalt. “I’ll never be at 100% again, but that won’t stop me from living this.”

The comedian has only recreationally used substances and never struggled with addiction. But one of his best-received jokes in his most recent Netflix special, Talking for Clapping, recalls the time he was offered heroin by a “super-friendly” drug dealer while living in San Francisco. He joked that he told the man while politely declining, “'I don’t, but thank you!' ... At the time, I was trying to lose some weight. I lived on that compliment for months.”

His book, Silver Screen Fiend, was released in January 2015 and in it Oswalt discusses at length the only addiction he’s ever had: movies.

"I've done my due diligence as far as vices, but I'm an unbearable slouch when it comes to interesting stories connected to them," he wrote. "This will be either the most interesting or the most boring addiction memoir you've ever read."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.