What happened to Whitney Houston? Q&A with expert on addiction

Whitney Houston admitted in 2009 to using drugs with ex-husband Bobby Brown.

Legendary songstress Whitney Houston was found dead in her bathtub on Saturday afternoon. No evidence of crime or self-harm was found at the scene. She was due to attend her mentor Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party that night, as well as the actual ceremony the following day.

The 48-year-old Houston was known to have used cocaine, crack cocaine and weed in the past — addictions she sought to end with a number of stints in rehab.

The cause of her death remains unknown.

We speak to addiction expert Dr. John Sharpe about her death:

Addicts often seem to die suddenly. Why is that?

We know that she has had a long struggle with drugs, namely cocaine and crack cocaine, and it may have beaten her. Over the years, it can ravage the body and people get worn down — which can have catastrophic consequences. Cocaine can cause stress, which can further lead to heart attacks, aneurysms or strokes. Although in Whitney’s case, it could have been unrelated.

What do you think could have been the cause of her death?

I think her body gave in to years of abuse or a recent period of indulgence. She had recently just wrapped up shooting for the movie “Sparkle” and was in L.A. over the weekend getting ready to attend Clive Davis’ party. These are all relevant factors. People celebrate big accomplish­ments, and I worry that she may have overindulged in old vices at the wrong time. It was just 3 o’clock in the afternoon [when she died]. I’d like to believe she got the drugs out of her system, and in a moment of total letdown her body gave out.

Do you think she could have overdosed?

I don’t think she overdosed. If someone uses cocaine, even if they are not old, they run the risk of significant cardiovascular strain. What people don’t get is that it can happen at any time, even the first time you use the drug. But if drugs have worn you down, you may have developed an underlying vulnerability or cardiac problem, and you can add to that the stress of the cocaine and life. People who use don’t see that any time could be the last time. She was too young to die in a bathtub but old enough to have suffered the cumulative ravages of drug use.

Reports about her recent health are conflicting. What do you make of that?

Some say she looked wonderful recently and others say she was far from that. There are a lot of conflicting reports, that she was totally clean and fine or that she has been highly intoxicated. She has had a lot of stress in her life, a lot of emotional battles and these health factors alone can kill you.
She was the queen of the music industry. What people need to hear is that when you lead a life like she did, you cannot avoid coming into contact with drugs or alcohol. You wind up having to deal with your demons. It’s a cautionary tale. The next queens out there need to know in advance the potential risks and need to find a way to keep a level head and stay healthy.

I just don’t think Whitney dealt with her demons.


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