All About Addiction

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Before We Jump to Whitney Houston Conclusions

Think before you make up your mind about Whitney

UPDATE (3/22/2012): The coronor's office has officially released their analysis determining that Whitney Houston died of drowning, although they pointed out that heart disease and cocaine use were contributing factors. This supports reports by people close to Whitney regarding her return to somewhat erratic behavior in the days and hours before her death. To me, this report suggests that drug use was involved in the death in so much as ongoing, chronic, cocaine use can create serious health problems, including exacerbating heart issues. However, it seems that her immediate drug taking was not the primary reason for her death. Heart failure due to acute cocaine ingestion or an alternate cause of death would have had to be determined for such a conclusion to be drawn.

No doubt, Whitney's battle with drugs, and cocaine in particular, will be an unfortunate part of her legacy, and a lost battle with drugs is a tragedy experienced numerous times before among celebrities. Hopefully, we'll see less and less of this happen with time. Rest in piece Whitney.

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Original article:

I've had numerous calls from media outlets who want to talk about Whitney Houston and her celebrity drug problem since this past Saturday. It seems as if everyone wants to jump to conclusions that I'm simply not ready to make yet. Given Ms. Houston's drug abuse history and her involvement with Bobby Brown, it seems as if every aspect of Whitney's personality is written off as having to do with her addiction.

Unfortunately, we don't know what killed Whitney Houston yet. Was it accidental drowning after being drowsy and possibly under the effect of a sedative? Was it a dangerous combination of alcohol and benzodiazepines? Was it an intentional or accidental overdose? Or was it a simple accident in which a tired celebrity, too stressed and too tired, drowned in her bathtub in a fancy hotel?

The point is that for any professional to begin proclaiming anything specific about Whitney's death is unprofessional and unbecoming. We, as a society, chase the famous consistently for some vicarious living and pleasure. I hope that at least those among us trained in emotional care-giving can take a step back and wait until it's appropriate to make any real conclusions. Otherwise, we're really no better than Entertainment Tonight or a British tabloid, are we?

When it comes to discussion Whitney Houston's struggle with drugs, I believe the cat is already out of the bag (and probably out of the cage and yard as well). Still, as I've pointed out numerous times in writings, a struggle with addiction does not itself mean any specific outcome. Many, actually most, addicts do recover from their addiction and a whole slew of them recover to full, exciting, and fulfilling lives. Until Saturday evening there was no reason to believe Whitney wasn't going to join that company.

So while we ponder the events that led to the loss of one of America's singing sensation, let's respect her memory by taking our time and drawing conclusions that are informed, not ill-formed. That says nothing about the final outcome, but it says something about who we are.

 

© 2012 Adi Jaffe, All Rights Reserved

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Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., is the executive director of Alternatives Behavioral Health and a lecturer at UCLA and California State University Long Beach.

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