Celebrity Drug Overdoses Teach Important Lessons

Whitney Houston was 48 years old when she died in February of this year.
Amy Winehouse was 27 when she died from alcohol poisoning in 2011.
Michael Jackson was 50 years old when he died from prescription drug overdose in 2009.

ImageAll three of these artists were gripped by alcohol and/or drug abuse throughout their adult lives, the tragedies of which were a constant source of ridicule for the tabloid press and late-night comedians. The official causes of Whitney Houston’s death have only recently been released, and the LA coroner’s office reported that the official cause of death was drowning and the effects of heart disease and cocaine use. The amount of cocaine found in the singer’s system indicates that she used the substance shortly before her death. The prescription bottles of Xanax and Valium that were found in her hotel room are anti-anxiety medications that are also used during substance abuse treatment programs. Houston went through several cycles of rehab and relapse, most recently in May 2011. Other substances found in her system included Benadryl, marijuana, and Flexiril.

A source claims that some members of Houston’s family blame ex-husband Bobby Brown for turning her into a heavy drug user. In an interview, Houston “admitted she made habitual use of marijuana and crack and specified that Brown’s highs of choice were alcohol and marijuana laced with cocaine.” Sadly, Houston’s daughter, age 18, has also struggled with substance abuse for the past 3 years and her family’s attention has turned to her in the wake of their loss.

Without going into the specifics surrounding the deaths of Winehouse and Jackson, I will summarize some of the themes that come out of these tragic stories.

  • Prescription medications can be just as risky as illegal drugs when it comes to the possibility of dependence and accidental overdose.
  • Alcohol should not be used in combination with prescription medications due to interactive effects that can amplify drug reactions.
  • Past drug use has long-term consequences on a person’s physical health that don’t disappear after quitting.
  • Substance abuse often coincides with untreated mental illness, as in the cases of Winehouse and Jackson.
  • Susceptibility to substance abuse is influenced by an individual’s genetics and environment. The people that surround a substance abuser can enable self-destructive behaviors or they can choose to be positive influences.

With their histories of drug abuse, was it inevitable that these celebrities would die from overdoses or do you believe that they could have turned things around at any time? Looking at yourself, your friends, and your family, would you know how to spot the signs of substance abuse and would you know what to do?

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