Final Verdict: Amy Winehouse Died of Alcohol Poisoning

By Jason Gotlieb 10/27/11

An alcohol overdose was quite enough to kill the star, as the inquest finds, despite a tendency to assume illegal drugs must be to blame.

The drink did it. Photo via

Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27 from alcohol poisoning, determined the inquest today, recording a verdict of misadventure. While many automatically jumped to blame the singer's demise on illicit drug abuse, alcohol deaths far exceed those from any illegal drug. Winehouse's blood alcohol content was five times the British (and US) driving limit at a deadly 0.4%, according to London coroner Suzanne Greenway, who said: "The unintended consequence of such potentially fatal levels was her sudden and unexpected death." The initial autopsy was inconclusive but discovered no illegal drugs or signs of injury. And following her death, police had found three empty vodka bottles in her bedroom. She was also taking medication for alcohol withdrawal and anxiety. Winehouse had acquired the dangerous habit of regularly abstaining from alcohol completely before binging heavily. As her family told the press, she had recently stopped drinking for three weeks, and they blamed alcohol withdrawal—which is frequently fatal—for killing her. But in fact her fate was sealed as she hit the bottle again immediately prior to her death on July 23. The finding should bring an end to speculation on the causes of a death that brought heartfelt reactions from around the world and reflections for many of us. And it underlines the seriousness with which we should take alcohol abuse and its consequences, despite a prevailing culture—especially pronounced in the UK—that plays it down compared to problems with other drugs. Joe Schrank, the interventionist and Fix co-founder, points out: "Alcohol is responsible for more death and damage than all street drugs combined. From a cultural perspective, we are so steeped in alcohol that we often overlooks its power to kill: I can't tell you how many people sit in my office and say, 'We know he drinks, but thank God, no drugs.'"

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Jason Gotlieb is a programmer, software developer, and writer living in New York. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.