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Whitney’s Cause of Death Determined
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While the official coroner’s report won’t be released until Beverly Hill’s police prepare it over the next two weeks, the mystery of Whitney Houston’s death has been cleared up: She appears to have used cocaine while in the bathtub, which triggered a preexisting heart condition, incapacitating her, upon which she slipped beneath the surface of the water, and drowned.

The misfortunate event came just one day before the 54 annual Grammy Awards that Whitney was scheduled to attend. The legendary singer was discovered by her bodyguard in the tub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel were she was staying on Feb 11: paramedics attempted to resuscitate her for 20 minutes.

The hotel had been cleared of all cocaine before investigators arrived. Nevertheless, an autopsy of her blood toxicity discovered a high level of cocaine in her blood, suggesting she used immediately before her death, and also found indications of chronic use. The investigation also discovered traces of marijuana, anti-anxiety medicine Xanax, muscle relaxant Flexeril, and anti-histamine Benadryl, which were deemed unrelated to her death.


Houston’s struggle with cocaine was no secret. In her infamous interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in 2002, Whitney spoke of her struggles:

“It has been [alcohol, marijuana, pills, cocaine] at times. Nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do. It’s my decision; the biggest devil is me. I’m my best friend and my worst enemy.”

Such habits can damage the heart. Craig Houston, of the Los Angeles County Coroners’ office, summarized his findings at the autopsy:

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“We have approximately a 60 percent occlusion in the arteries, in the narrowing of the arteries. So that condition, complicated by the chronic cocaine use, all combined to result in her drowning. The final cause of death has been established as drowning due to atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.”

Atherosclerotic heart disease is a narrowing of the vessels that supply the heart with oxygen due to plaque build up. This heart condition, combined with cocaine, proved a lethal combination Dr. Michael Fishbein of the UCLA Medical Center explains:

“The immediate effect of cocaine is that it interferes with the electrical system of the heart. An analogy might be a swimming pool pump. You can have a perfectly good pump, but if you cut the electrical cord, the pump stops working. If the heart stops pumping blood, and all the organs are deprived of oxygen, the tissue dies and the person dies.

“The long-term effect is that cocaine causes the heart to be enlarged, which increases the risk of sudden death. It also causes scarring in the heart, which increases the risk of sudden cardiac death, and it causes accelerated atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which we associate with high blood pressure and smoking.”

Dr. Drew Pinsky, the addiction specialist who hosts “Dr. Drew” said that “The cocaine probably caused some sort of cardiac arrhythmia or damage to the heart muscle, which resulted in her losing blood pressure and consciousness, and slipping into the water and drowning.”

The conclusion seems to be that Whitney’s addiction was the ultimate cause of her death.


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