Whitney Houston Drowned, Cocaine Was a Factor

By Valerie Tejeda 03/23/12

The coroner's report found a pharmacopeia of substances in the singers blood, including cocaine, Xanax, marijuana, Benadryl and a muscle relaxant.

The Greatest Singer of All

Whitney Houston died from accidental drowning, but use of cocaine and heart disease played a part in her death, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner. The much anticipated autopsy results were released on Thursday evening after long speculation of what caused the late singer's death on February 11th. The toxicology results also indicated the 48-year-old singer had Xanax, marijuana, the allergy medication Benadryl, and the muscle relaxant Flexeril in her system, as well as a buildup of plaque in her arteries that is common among drug users. "We feel that the cocaine coupled with the heart disease complicated her condition," said chief investigator Craig Harvey. "Chances are if she did not have pre-existing heart disease and cocaine use, she might not have drowned."

Heart complications from cocaine use is something that has been researched and published by Dr. Richard A. Lange and Dr. L. David Hillis of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Cocaine induces an increase in the three major determinants of the myocardial oxygen demand: the heart rate, the systemic arterial pressure, and left ventricular contractility,” they wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. “The risk for heart attack is increased by a factor of 24 during the 60 minutes after the use of cocaine in persons who are otherwise at relatively low risk.” In summary, a hit of cocaine generate abnormal heart rhythms which can result in unexpected cardiac death, and long-term use of the drug can damage the blood vessels around the heart, which then leads to hardening of the arteries.

Houston’s family and friends are saddened and surprised by the toxicology results, especially since they believed she was not using drugs before her death, “I don’t think drugs was an issue for her before her death. I don’t know what happened that day,” Patricia Houston, the Whitney’s sister-in-law and manager, said in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey. The exact amount of cocaine in Houston’s system has not been made known, but a final autopsy report is said to be released in two weeks.

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.