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FBI records document history of Rehnquist drug dependency

[JURIST] FBI [official website] records [parts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6] released Thursday shed light upon late US Chief Justice William Rehnquist's [Wikipedia biography; JURIST news archive] public battle with prescription drug dependency [Reuters report] in the early 1980s. The records reveal that he was prescribed a powerful sleeping aid when he was an associate justice, which he took for over a decade. Rehnquist also took Placidyl [WebMD patient fact sheet] to alleviate chronic back pain, sometimes three times the recommended dosage.

In 1981, he suddenly stopped taking the drug. FBI records indicate that after Rehnquist checked himself into George Washington University Hospital [official website], he exhibited a common symptom of Placidyl-withdrawal and became delirious. Believing that the CIA was plotting against him, he fled the hospital in his pajamas [Washington Post report]. Rehnquist entered into a month-long drug detoxification program the next year to wean him of his dependency.

As a result of his drug use, Rehnquist developed slurred speech, a known side effect of Placidyl. The FBI records state that the Rehnquist's back pain also led to his abuse of Darvon [WebMD patient fact sheet] and Tylenol 3, both of which may have contributed to his condition [Washington Post report]. The records were release in response to Freedom of Information Act [text] requests filed by media organizations and academics in 2005. The delay in disclosure was due to privacy law which forbids public release of personal files during the subject's lifetime. AP has more.

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