Health

The Disturbing Detail in Lamar Odom's Overdose

After former NBA star Lamar Odom was found unresponsive in a Nevada brothel earlier this week, staff there revealed he had been using cocaine in recent days. Later, the local sheriff's department revealed that the former Laker had also used at least "10 sexual performance enhancer supplements" over the course of three days, CNN reported.

"Sexual performance enhancer supplements" in this case meant "Reload 72-hour strong sexual enhancement for men," among other yet-to-be-determined herbal supplements, according to the 911 call recording. The Nye County Sheriff's department was reportedly still working to determine what other supplements Odom took using blood samples.

The case has shed light on the often shady category of cheap, flashy herbal supplements found in places like convenience stores and Chinese medicine shops—especially the ones that claim to treat problems tied to sexual function. "Reload," according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, contains sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. But in a 2013 public health warning, the FDA notes that the ingredient is undeclared, which could lead to complications when mixed with other drugs with nitrates, often found in treatments for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

CNN notes that drugs like Reload have garnered warnings from the FDA before, notifying users of the presence of things such as "heavy metals, pesticides, printer ink, and commercial paint[.]" Another drug called "Hard 10 Days" received a similar warning in 2012, and was even the subject of litigation. Hard 10 Days includes other ingredients such as Alaska Sea Horse Membrum, Cayenne pepper, and powdered deer antler.

Because users can seek out supplements such as Hard 10 Days and other, non-sexual herbal concoctions without prescriptions, they are readily available. But that has increasingly proved to be a public health problem, since the FDA loosely regulates natural supplements, as Vox pointed out this week. In fact, supplement companies are not even required to prove that their product is effective. A study released this week, for example, estimated supplements cause approximately 23,000 emergency room visits annually, with 2,000 of those leading to hospitalization. Sexual enhancement supplements account for less than 4 percent of those visits, according to the study, but as CNN notes, 2013 saw over 800 calls to poison control lines about "other types of Vasodilator," a blood vessel-opening medication that some Viagra-esque drugs have been known to mimic.