Henri Paul: Prozac, Alcohol and Denial?

Princess Diana's Driver Had Traces of Two Drugs in His Blood

Henri Paul Driving Princess Diana
Henri Paul Driving Princess Diana. © Getty Images

The final blood test for Henri Paul, driver of the Mercedes in which he, Dodi Fayed, and Princess Diana were killed, shows that he was not only drunk, he was also taking an antidepressant drug and may have stopped taking one prescribed for alcohol abuse.

French prosecutors said that Henri Paul had traces of two drugs in his blood along with a high alcohol level. A statement by the prosecutor's office said a blood test to determine the driver's alcohol level revealed he had taken two drugs: fluoxetine and tiapride.

The media report said, "Fluoxetine is the generic name for the popular antidepressant drug Prozac while tiapride is a drug which works to calm the central nervous system. It is used for people with psychiatric disorders or to relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal."

As more information became available, we began to get a better picture, although perhaps still not in complete focus, of the man they asked to drive Princess Diana away from the Ritz Hotel in Paris on that fateful night It is not a very pretty picture, as it continues to develop. Let's take a closer look at the blood content of Henri Paul.

This is from the official statement of French prosecutors, reported by Reuters:

  • The analysis of a sample of blood taken on September 4, 1997, in the presence of an investigating magistrate yielded a level of pure alcohol of 1.75 grams per thousand grams.
  • The analysis of fluid taken from the eyeball yielded a level of 1.73 grams per thousand.
  • A search for toxic chemicals in the blood revealed therapeutic levels of a medication whose active ingredient is fluoxetine, and sub-therapeutic levels of a second drug whose active ingredient is tiapride.

The above results of 1.75 grams per thousand grams is equivalent to a BAC of 0.175 in the United States, where the legal limit is 0.08.

Blood-Alcohol Content

The above results are from the third blood alcohol test conducted by authorities after Paul's family disputed the first results and got a French judge to order more tests.

Obviously, this third test confirms the earlier ones: Paul was more than three times over the legal 0.05 limit in France, and would have been deemed intoxicated in every country in the world.

As a point of reference, someone with a BAC of .15 would be 380 times more likely to have an accident than a sober driver.

According to these studies, the likelihood of an accident doubles with every .02 increase in BAC, so Henri Paul was more than 760 times more likely to have an accident than a non-drinking driver.

Prozac

There is a long list of prescription and over-the-counter drugs which were not supposed to be combined with alcohol due to possible dangerous interactions. Prozac is one of those drugs.

But forgetting about the combination for a moment, let's look at the Prozac alone. Patients taking Prozac should be cautioned against driving an automobile or performing hazardous tasks until they are reasonably certain that treatment with fluoxetine does not affect them adversely.

But combining alcohol with any antidepressant is dangerous. According to Ronald J Diamond, M.D., of the University of Wisconsin Department of Psychiatry and Medical Director, Mental Health Center of Dane County, WI, "all antidepressants potentiate the effect of alcohol, and a few drinks will make a client on these medications more intoxicated than he or she would normally get. In addition, alcohol increases the lethality of antidepressants and a normally non-lethal overdose may become lethal if combined with alcohol."

But perhaps even more startling is this warning from Dr. Diamond: "Antidepressant medications can trigger a manic episode in some susceptible people. In addition, some schizophrenic clients are reported to get more disorganized or more paranoid when taking antidepressants."

We do not know why Henri Paul was taking Prozac, but generally, it is prescribed for depression, panic attacks, and bipolar disorder, the condition formerly known as manic depression. It is also used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Tiapride: The Smoking Gun?

Tiapride, which was found in the blood of Princess Diana's driver Henri Paul, is listed in medical literature as a treatment for stuttering in youngsters, Tourette's disorder, and for physical "tics."

But, news reports also said that tiapride is used "to relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal." Indeed, the drug has been studied as a pharmacological treatment to prevent relapse in recently detoxified alcoholics.

Stopped Taking His Relapse Prevention Drug?

Again, we do not know why Paul had been prescribed tiapride, but the report said that he had "therapeutic levels" of Prozac in his blood, but the level of tiapride was "sub-therapeutic."

Since most of these types of medications linger in the blood stream for several days after the patient stops taking them, Paul apparently had previously taken tiapride, but had stopped taking it, since the level was no longer "therapeutic."

Was Henri Paul Off the Wagon?

This brings up some very interesting questions, to say the least.

Could it be that Henri Paul had been undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse? Was he drinking heavily because of his depression and his doctor prescribed Prozac for the depression and Tiapride for the alcohol withdrawal? Did he go through detox or alcohol treatment?

Could this be why his family was so adamant that the first blood tests were wrong -- because they knew that he was undergoing treatment for his alcohol abuse?

An Alcoholic in Denial?

Did Paul "fall off the wagon," stop taking his tiapride, but kept taking his Prozac? Could this be why he appeared to be sober at the Ritz that night after being called back from home to the hotel to drive -- because he was desperately trying to cover up his drinking?

Somebody knows the answers to these questions. If Paul had a drinking problem, you can bet that everyone around him, including his parents and employers, knew about it. Could this be why everyone in the Fayed camp and in Paul's family is rushing to his defense -- because the blood tests confirmed their worse fears? He was drinking again and lying about it?

The truth may come out yet, in spite of the denials.

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