Whitney Houston’s death has been ruled to be an accidental drowning. Heart disease and chronic cocaine use also contributed. March 22, 2012
The above is the headline that has flashed around the world . The message seems to be, “Look after your heart and avoid cocaine” Not many people are going to be looking at the details of the coroner’s report.
Did she die of a heart attack? “…plaque in her arteries… …common in drug users… …wasn’t clear whether Houston had a heart attack on the day she died.” – http://ibnlive.in.com/news/whitney-houston-died-from-drowning-coroner/241874-45.html
They seem pretty sure it was not a heart attack. It seems she simply fell asleep in the bath. It could happen to any of us. It is however, a rare thing for anyone who is not under the influence of sedatives.
What about prescription drugs? What part might drugs available on prescription and used by Whitney Houston have contributed to her early demise?
“Several bottles of prescription medications were found in her hotel room, but coroner’s officials said there weren’t excessive quantities.” – same web page as above http://ibnlive.in.com/news/whitney-houston-died-from-drowning-coroner/241874-45.html
What does, “…weren’t excessive quantities.” mean and was cocaine the only drug affecting the singer at this time?
“Cocaine was found in her system as were traces of marijuana, Xanax, Flexeril, and Benadryl although they did not contribute to her tragic passing.” And “…several pills were found on the scene including Xanax, Ibuprofen, and Midol. However, investigators found no evidence of cocaine in the hotel room.” – http://www.pep.ph/news/33496/whitney-houston-dies-of-accidental-drowning-and-cocaine-use
Clearly marijuana (cannabis) can lead to some health problems, but what of the prescription drugs that presumably Houston had taken not so long before she died?
Xanax: It was detected in her body. Also known as Alprazolam
“Alprazolam possesses anxiolytic, sedative, hypnotic, skeletal muscle relaxant, anticonvulsant, and amnestic properties.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alprazolam
Side effects include: Drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, unsteadiness and impaired coordination. It does not sound like a good thing to be taking before having a bath.
Flexeril: It was detected in her body. Also known as Cyclobenzaprine
Side effects: significantly increased rates of drowsiness (38% of patients)
Another thing probably not to take before having a bath.
Benadryl: It was detected in her body. Active ingredient Diphenhydramine
“…may also produce anticholinergic effects, antiemetic effects, and significant sedative side-effects.
In the United Kingdom, Benadryl products contain either the non-sedating antihistamine acrivastine (marketed as Benadryl Allergy Relief) or the non-sedating antihistamine cetirizine (marketed as Benadryl One a Day Relief).” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benadryl
Clearly the drug companies believe it is sedating else surely they would not be marketing less sedating varieties of Benadryl.
Is it possible that the different formats of Benadryl in different countries leads to the debate about whether it can be used to put children to sleep on plane flights:
“I’ve totally given Benadryl as a way to get the kids to go to sleep when they were littler… …I think I did it about a month ago even. I would do it on a flight if I thought it would make them less freaked out.” – /the_benhttp://www.salon.com/2012/03/21adryl_solution/singleton/
Ibuprofen: In hotel room.
This is a common drug used all over the world for pain relief and there is a lot of evidence to say that it is one of the safer drugs around when used correctly. There is this, “Infrequent adverse effects include: esophageal ulceration, heart failure…” on Wikipedia. As there is nothing about finding Ibuprofen in her body this does not seem to have anything to do with her death.
Midol: In hotel room.
According to: http://www.midol.com/pm.html
“Active ingredients (in each caplet)
Acetaminophen 500 mg = Pain reliever
Diphenhydramine citrate 38 mg = Nighttime sleep-aid”
Midol contains acetaminophen is known as paracetamol in many countries. It is not usually associated with extra drowsiness, although I certainly find I get off to sleep quicker and sleep longer even just taking one paracetamol 500mg tablet. This effect is probably related to pain relief – that is, when we feel less pain we find it easier to sleep.
Midol contains diphenhydramine is the same active ingredient as in Benadryl – see above. This brings us back to a question of whether this chemical could make it more likely for someone to fall asleep in a bath?
According to the sales web site at http://www.benadryl.co.uk/symptoms-and-advice
“At the recommended dosage, BENADRYL® products do not cause drowsiness in the majority of sufferers.” – It is interesting that one drug company says it does not cause sleepiness while another is marketing it as a “Nighttime sleep-aid”!
It seems very likely that anyone taking two medications both containing this compound would be likely more likely to fall asleep in a bath as they may well exceed the recommended dosage.
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Overall, it seems there were a lot of drugs being used by Whitney Houston that could have each contributed a little towards her falling asleep in the bath. From this point of view I feel that a headline that focuses attention on heart disease (that certainly was not the main cause of death) and chronic cocaine use (which does not seem to have been significant in the drowning) seems mis-leading.
It is leading us away from the truth, which is that deaths from mixing prescription drugs are becoming more common.
In researching this subject I happened to find this article where the author is thinking along similar lines:
Here are just three examples from the article by SORAYA ROBERTS…
Anna Nicole Smith, who died on Feb. 8, 2007 (Age 38) who had taken a mix of drugs including Benadryl
Heath Ledger, who died on January 22, 2008 (Age 28) who had taken a mix of drugs including Xanax
DJ AM (a.k.a. Adam Goldstein), who died on Aug. 28, 2009 (Age 36) who had taken a mix of drugs including Benadryl and Xanax
I do not wish to single out Diphenhydramine and Alprazolam as drugs that are any more dangerous than others. What I hope to do is to alert more people to the fact that too many quite young people are dying through taking prescription drugs without realising the dangers of mixing them.
A final coroner’s report into Whitney Houston’s death is expected to be ready for release within two weeks.