Chris Cornell Autopsy: Strange Combination Of Drugs In System, But Hanging Caused Death

Chris Cornell, who died hours after a concert on May 17 in Detroit, had taken numerous types of medications, which were found in his bloodstream, but they did not “contribute to his death” according to an autopsy, as published in Denver Post. He was found on May 18 after attempts to reach the Soundgarden frontman failed and a hotel security guard kicked in his door to find the body of Cornell, who was just 52-years-old.

While Cornell had made a claim to fame during the 90s grunge-era with angsty themes, Cornell himself had stayed relatively grounded while other bands and band members from the era encountered major drug problems and some overdosed. However, when Cornell’s autopsy was released, he had multiple drugs that were of an odd combination, according to one Pharmacy Professor. Daryl Davies, a professor of clinical pharmacy at the USC School of Pharmacy, says that it was an odd combination of medications, but didn’t seem like it was enough to make someone so disoriented that they would hang themselves accidentally.

“When you mix that combination or cocktail, you can have drowsiness, you could be disoriented, but it seems like a stretch that you would hang yourself.”

Soundgarden singer killed himself with a carabiner and elastic exercise band
[Image by Buda Mendes / Getty Images]

Drugs found in his system included Narcan, Ativan, pseudoephedrine, barbituates, and caffeine, but none in a lethal dose. Davies called it an “odd combination of uppers and downers.” Cornell was found hanging with a resistance band around his neck which was attached to the bathroom door. His family has maintained that they believe his death may have been caused by being disoriented. His wife says she talked to him immediately after the concert, and while he admitted he had taken an extra Ativan to help with anxiety, she had no idea he was taking other drugs. In a statement on Friday, she said something seemed “off” about her husband just before his death.

“Many of us who know Chris well noticed that he wasn’t himself during his final hours and that something was very off. We have learned from this report that several substances were found in his system. After so many years of sobriety, this moment of terrible judgment seems to have completely impaired and altered his state of mind. Something clearly went terribly wrong and my children and I are heartbroken and are devastated that this moment can never be taken back. We very much appreciate all of the love we have received during this extremely difficult time and are dedicated to helping others in preventing this type of tragedy.”

Musician Chris Cornell (L) and his wife Vicky Karayiannis pose at a private reception
Chris Cornell and his wife Vicky Karayiannis [Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]

However, it is not uncommon for people to accidentally hang themselves while attempting to experience a rush of euphoria from occluding a carotid artery momentarily, which deprives the brain of oxygen and is a dangerous practice. Michael Hutchence, the leader singer of the Australian-formed band INXS, died in what appeared to be auto-eroticism (self-oxygen deprivation that went deadly) versus willful suicide. He also had multiple drugs in his body when he died in November 1997, twenty years before the death of Cornell.

While Cornell was found with needle marks in his arms, it was determined that they occurred from Emergency Medical Personnel giving him Narcan, to reverse any possible narcotic in his system, which was not listed among drugs found in his bloodstream at the time of death. Vicky Cornell says that her husband had once had a serious OxyContin addiction but had apparently been clean for over a decade.

At this point, family, friends and fans may be left with questions forever about what happened to Chris Cornell in his final hours and why they happened. The only thing that has been made clear is that the amount and combination of drugs in his body did not directly cause his death.

[Featured Image by Roger Kisby/Getty Images]