Whitney Houston’s Death an Opportunity to Discuss Prescription Drug Abuse Dangers, Says ONCDP Director

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, says singer Whitney Houston’s death is an opportunity to talk about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Although it is not yet known whether prescription drugs were linked to Houston’s death, she had acknowledged struggling with substance abuse in the past. “Her death is absolutely tragic and this brings attention to the problem that she had talked about in the past and that certainly is prescription drugs,” Kerlikowske told CBS News. “It affects a huge number of people in this country and has driven deaths to very, very high numbers—well over 15,000.”

He added, “I think it is what we might call a teachable moment when someone passes—particularly as someone as highly thought of and such an incredible performer as Whitney Houston. We can use this as a moment to help people understand. There are millions of Americans that are suffering from this problem…so we can use this as a chance to move forward.”

6 Responses to Whitney Houston’s Death an Opportunity to Discuss Prescription Drug Abuse Dangers, Says ONCDP Director

  1. Guy | February 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    When did Whitney Houston die? Was an autopsy done? If so what drugs if any were in her system? I drugs were in her system, how high was the amount? Was it enough to kill her?

    Guy

    • Fan | February 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      @Guy,

      She passed on Saturday, 2/1, 2012. I agree in that the “teachable moment” is a rush to judgement at this point. No autopsy results have been released to my best knowledge – and it’s certainly too early for toxicology results.

  2. Tony Graveline | February 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Thank You ONDCP, prescription drug abuse is a health epidemic that is hurting us. Let us not forget alcohol is still the number one most abused substance and when one prescribes narcotics or opioids, drinking needs to be monitored. In Whitney’s defense it may not have been misuse that killed her as her last meal ordered at the hotel included beer and champagne along with whatever she was prescribed. All patients need to be screened for legal and illegal substance misuse as the shrinking of the Central Nervous System occurs with narcotics and alcoholic regardless of the amount. This is the recipe that causes overdoses, whichh can happen unintentionally when getting high may not even be the intention.

  3. Michael Shore, M.D. | February 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    What a shame that the entertainment industry has NOT used this unfortunate incident to start a dialogue on the dangers and inherent risks of substance use, misuse and abuse. There has been no mention on the availability of treatment and recovery !!!

  4. motherwarrior | February 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    It is so concerning that someone whom everyone knew was a drug addict and who admitted she still drank alcohol (on the Oprah show) would be prescribed benzos. What was in that physician’s head? A friend called me today about an employee for whom she pays health insurance premiums who was hospitalized for drug addiction, yet was just prescribed Vicodan for an EARACHE! Who does that? A physician who is unfamiliar with addiction. How do we reach them?

  5. Fred C, | February 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Alcohol may be the most abused substance (more than all other drugs put together), but the number one killer drug is tobacco. Tobacco deaths are around 520,000 per year in the USA alone. Alcohol accounts for less than 200,000 (including accidents where alcohol was involved). All other drugs together are less than for alcohol, and salt, a silent killer, not considered a drug but people can still develop a tolerance that leads to overuse, kills about 150,000 a year.
    To motherwarrior, yes it is wrong, but the fact is that most doctors prescribe pain pills because they know the client will just go to another doctor if they don’t give them what they want. Doctors are caught between running a business and being morally ethical. I’m glad I don’t have their decisions to make, but I agree that Vicodin for an earache seems excessive. My question would be how many were prescribed. If they were prescribed four or five, than that would probably not cause a problem.

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