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Specialist: 'I don't know' if Michael Jackson was a drug addict

Michael Jackson’s drug use was again the topic of conversation in court Wednesday, where an addiction specialist testified that he saw no evidence the singer was addicted to painkillers or the anesthetic propofol that ultimately led to his death.

Dr. Sidney Schnoll acknowledged that after Jackson interrupted his 1993 “Dangerous” tour to seek treatment for an addiction to painkillers, he was given propofol during medical procedures and Demerol for back and scalp pain.

But Schnoll said that based on his review of the case, there was not enough material to provide a definite diagnosis.

“I don’t know if he was a drug addict,” Schnoll testified. “I’ve not seen any evidence that would give me the information that would allow me to make a diagnosis of addiction.”

Schnoll’s testimony came in the wrongful death suit filed by Jackson’s mother and three children against entertainment giant AEG Live. The family contends that AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray, who gave the singer the fatal dose of propofol two weeks before his “This Is It” tour was supposed to begin. The company maintains that Jackson hired Murray.

Murray is serving jail time on an involuntary manslaughter conviction.

Jackson's drug use has come up several times during the 10-week trial, including opening statements when Jackson family attorney Brian Panish said the singer had at times been "dependent" on prescription medication after being badly burned while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984.

Schnoll, hired by the Jacksons' attorneys, said that even if the singer was addicted or dependent on drugs, "If he got proper treatment, he would have had a normal life expectancy."

He added: "If his underlying medical conditions — the pain, the insomnia — had been appropriately treated, he may have been able to get off of those medications or been treated appropriately."

When asked by Jackson family attorney Michael Koskoff if other factors — including Jackson's family, career, financial resources and love of fans — would have helped improve the success of any treatment, Schnoll said it would.

But a cardiologist such as Murray, Schnoll said, would not be "competent" to treat any drug problem Jackson might have had.

"He was an intervention cardiologist, which is a highly specialized area of medicine," Schnoll said of Murray. "Intervention cardiologists have no background in treating problems of substance abuse, they have no background in treating pain ... they look at hearts, which is totally unrelated."

 

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Twitter: @katemather | Google+

kate.mather@latimes.com

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