What Whitney Houston’s Death Teaches Us About Addiction

Saturday evening, in the glamorous Beverly Hills Hilton hotel, singer Whitney Houston’s body was discovered in a bathtub. She was face down, her lungs were filled with water, and she was unresponsive. The cause of death is unknown at this time, but with an extensive history of drug abuse and prescription pills found in her room, rumors are spreading quickly.


Surely anyone who had followed the career of this woman, even those who hadn’t, probably harbors some inkling that there were additional, contributing factors at play in the death of Ms. Houston. It was extensively documented that the singer had struggles with substance abuse throughout her life. These issues were brought to light by both highly publicized interviews and by reality television cameras that chronicled her tumultuous marriage with singer Bobby Brown, who had his own troubles with substance abuse at the time.

A Series of Recurring Tragedies

While surely tragic, who didn’t see something like this coming from a mile away? How many celebrities are we going to watch struggle with addictions while brushing it off as them being eccentric artist? Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, the list of famous musicians who have died as a direct result from drug use goes on and on. It is, regrettably, far too common in our society that we see this happen. Ironically, it seems to desensitize us to the lethal realities of drug dependency. It is becoming far too commonplace. We see someone who is clearly in trouble, we put them in front of the camera anyway, and then we act astonished when they are unable to maintain the high-wire act of being famous while dealing with their drug addiction.

How we continue to Enable

Make no mistake, this could have, and should have, been avoided. Whitney Houston was, by self-admission, a drug addict. Her managers, handlers, accountants, entourage, family and friends all knew this fact.  Yet, with money continually rolling in, why rock the boat? Perhaps, it is too cynical to suggest those people close to her let Whitney do whatever Whitney wanted to do in order that she remain “happy” and keep performing. However, I suspect that the truth in this matter is not far from that scenario of enabling. I’m not suggesting these people killed Whitney Houston, but, did anyone really try to get her help?

What Happens Next?

Now, Whitney is survived by her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. Ms. Brown has, since her mother’s death, been hospitalized twice for anxiety and stress. She has been photographed recently snorting cocaine. She is the daughter of two very famous, drug dependent parents. If history is any indicator, which of the following two scenarios is more likely to take place; Bobbi Kristina Brown seeking drug treatment or rehabilitation at the behest of those close to her, or Bobbi Kristina Brown getting offered a reality show on cable television? If we are serious about making drug addiction less prevalent in our culture we have to start imploring celebrities to seek help in private and off screen, before we allow them back on our airwaves.

Maybe, this will be the “shocking” celebrity death that jolts us from our seemingly collective notion that famous individuals do not need help overcoming a drug addiction. Probably not, though. Who cares if Whitney Houston is high on crack and sweating like maniac as long as she keeps churning out hit records? Who cares if Michael Jackson is popping Xanax like tic-tacs as long as he keeps moonwalking? Who cares if Amy Winehouse just drank a gallon of gin as long as she stumbles up there and performs? Not us. If we actually cared about these people, as all of the moving tributes and candle lit vigils suggest we did, we would at least try to help them.


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