Skip to main content

AEG expert: Michael Jackson was a drug addict

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 4:44 PM EDT, Wed August 28, 2013
<strong>Katherine Jackson: </strong>Michael's mother, 82, was deposed for nine hours over three days by AEG Live lawyers. As the guardian of her son's three children, she is a plaintiff in the wrongful death lawsuit against the company that promoted Michael Jackson's comeback concerts. Katherine Jackson: Michael's mother, 82, was deposed for nine hours over three days by AEG Live lawyers. As the guardian of her son's three children, she is a plaintiff in the wrongful death lawsuit against the company that promoted Michael Jackson's comeback concerts.
HIDE CAPTION
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
Key players in Jackson wrongful death trial
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Expert saw no evidence Jackson ever sought or used illegal drugs
  • NEW: No evidence Jackson used more painkillers than doctors prescribed, expert testifies
  • Jackson's mom and children contend AEG Live is liable in the singer's death
  • AEG Live argues it could not have known about Jackson's propofol use

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A drug addiction expert who testified that Michael Jackson suffered a "quite extensive" drug addiction acknowledged there was no evidence the singer used more painkillers than medically necessary.

Dr. Petros Levounis testified Tuesday and Wednesday for AEG Live in its defense of the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jackson's mother and children.

Lawyers for the concert promoter want to convince jurors that the singer was a secretive addict responsible for his own death from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol. Their executives had no way of knowing the singer was in danger when he was preparing for his comeback concerts in 2009, they contend.

Jackson lawyers contend AEG Live executives are liable because they negligently hired, retained or supervised the doctor who used propofol to treat Jackson's insomnia as he prepared for his comeback concerts during the last two months of his life.

The conclusion that Jackson was dependent on painkillers was not a revelation, considering Jackson himself announced it when he cut his "Dangerous" tour short to enter a rehab program in 1993.

"If he announced it to the world it's not very private, is it?" Jackson lawyer Michael Koskoff asked Levounis.

"At that moment, he was not secretive," Levounis replied.

Jackson's drugs of choice were opioids, painkillers given to him by doctors repairing scalp injuries suffered in a fire and during cosmetic procedures to make him look younger, Levounis testified.

Labeling Jackson an addict could tarnish the singer's image among jurors, but its relevance to AEG Live's liability is questionable. Opioids played no role in Jackson's death, according to the Los Angeles County coroner. His June 25, 2009, death was ruled a result of an overdose of propofol.

Dr. Conrad Murray told investigators he infused the singer with propofol for 60 consecutive nights to treat his insomnia so he could rest for rehearsals. The judge would not allow Levounis to testify if he thought Jackson was addicted to propofol.

Anesthesiologist: Jackson recruited me to help with insomnia

Levounis said addiction happens when a chemical "hijacks the pleasure-reward pathways" in your brain. "You remain addicted for the rest of your life," Levounis testified.

"Michael Jackson's addiction was quite extensive and I have very little doubt that his pleasure-reward pathways had been hijacked and he suffered from addiction," he said.

Levounis conceded he saw no evidence that Jackson used painkillers after he left rehab in 1993 until 2001 or between July 2003 and late 2008.

He said it is not inconsistent for an addiction to go into remission.

Under cross examination Wednesday morning, Levounis conceded that he never saw evidence that Jackson injected himself with narcotics, ever sought or used illegal drugs such as cocaine, meth or heroin, or abused drugs to produce euphoria or get high.

There was also no evidence Jackson used more painkillers than doctors prescribed, he said.

Jackson lawyers have never disputed the singer's drug dependence. In fact, they contend that AEG Live executives, including one who was Jackson's tour manager when he entered rehab, were negligent for paying a doctor $150,000 a month just to treat Jackson. The high salary created a conflict for the debt-ridden Murray, making it difficult for him to say no to Jackson's demands for drugs.

Paul Gongaware, the AEG Live co-CEO who was in charge of Jackson's 2009 "This Is It" tour, was also tour manager for his "Dangerous" tour in 1993. Levounis acknowledged in testimony Wednesday that there was evidence that Gongaware knew about Jackson's painkiller addiction 15 years before his death.

Levounis' testimony about the dangers of a doctor being too friendly with an addicted patient, which he said Murray was, could help the Jacksons' case.

"A very close friendship between an addicted patient and a doctor is problematic," Levounis testified. "It makes it much easier for a patient to ask for drugs and it makes it more difficult for a provider to resist."

The medical records of Murray's treatment of Jackson between 2006 and 2008 -- when the singer lived in Las Vegas -- showed no painkillers prescribed during seven visits. Murray's notes did show he treated Jackson's complaints of insomnia with a sedative in 2008.

Wednesday was the 76th day of testimony in the trial, which is expected to conclude near the end of September.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
The Jackson family
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Wed August 7, 2013
Michael Jackson's ex-wife and the mother of two of his children may now be thrust into the center of the high-profile trial.
updated 4:47 AM EDT, Fri July 26, 2013
A nurse who administered propofol to Michael Jackson more than a dozen times said the pop star did not appear to be a drug-seeker.
updated 10:15 AM EDT, Thu July 25, 2013
A top executive with AEG Live insists Celine Dion is a "bigger" artist than Michael Jackson.
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Fri July 19, 2013
Michael Jackson's mother told jurors she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against AEG Live "because I want to know what really happened to my son."
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu July 11, 2013
Kenny Ortega choked up with emotion as he read aloud an e-mail he wrote days before Michael Jackson's death.
updated 11:15 AM EDT, Mon June 24, 2013
Michael Jackson died while preparing to set a world record for the most successful concert run, but he unknowingly set another record that led to his death.
updated 7:06 PM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
Paris and Prince Jackson made their first appearances in the wrongful death trial against their father's last concert promoter.
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Thu July 4, 2013
A London tabloid declared that "secret FBI files" reveal Michael Jackson paid millions to silence dozens of boys he abused.
updated 12:22 PM EDT, Sun June 16, 2013
Michael Jackson's health deteriorated so badly that he couldn't perform some of his trademark dance moves.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Thu June 6, 2013
Like her father had done countless times before, Paris Jackson stepped to the microphone.
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Fri May 31, 2013
The phrase most spoken by AEG Live's co-CEO during his testimony in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial was: "I don't recall."
updated 2:57 PM EDT, Thu May 16, 2013
A dancer-choreographer befriended by Michael Jackson when he was a child now calls the late pop icon "a pedophile and a child sexual abuser."
updated 4:34 PM EDT, Tue May 7, 2013
Jurors hearing the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial got a stark look at the dead pop icon after a lawyer showed them an autopsy photo.
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Wed April 3, 2013
The doctor convicted in Michael Jackson's death serenaded CNN's Anderson Cooper with a song that he said "tells my story."
updated 5:59 PM EDT, Wed October 2, 2013
Click through photos remembering Michael Jackson's legacy.
ADVERTISEMENT