Can't Buy Me Love Star died from overdose on painkiller gabapentin, report says

By Jodi Guglielmi
Updated September 03, 2015 01:30 PM
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Can’t Buy Me Love star Amanda Peterson had multiple prescription drugs in her system at the time of her sudden death on July 5, but she overdosed after self-medicating to deal with the pain from a hysterectomy, according to the coroner’s report obtained by PEOPLE.

A week before her death, Peterson told a witness that she had taken a “friend’s” morphine for “unspecified pain,” the autopsy report says.

“For unclear reasons, it appears that the decedent was attempting to self-medicate her pain at the time of death,” Dr. Micheal Burson, a pathologist and University of Colorado-Denver professor, writes in the autopsy report.

The toxicology screen found several medications in her system, including drugs to treat depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia. Traces of marijuana, which is legal in Colorado, were also in her blood.

“Of the medications detected in the blood all were within therapeutic limits,” Burson writes, except for one – the pain-killer gabapentin. That drug, which had been prescribed to treat pain from a hysterectomy, had levels six times higher than normal, though it is not listed as a factor in her death.

Burson described Peterson as morphine naïve, meaning she had not built up a resistant to the drug. It was Peterson’s attempt to manage her pain with morphine that led to her untimely death at the age of 43, he writes.

She died of acute morphine toxicity from an accidental overdose, according to the report.

Though the actress had her share of troubles in the past 15 years – she spent three months in jail in 2005 and was last arrested in May 2012 for DUI and possession of narcotic equipment – those close to her say she was trying to turn her life around.

Shortly after her death, her mother, Sylvia Peterson, told Entertainment Tonight she was confident her daughter’s death was not related to substance abuse, saying she had been clean for some time: “This was not, in any way, a drug thing.”