Definitely Not Decaf - Opinion & Commentary with Ira Pickett

If TMZ’s report is correct, the Los Angeles County coroners office has told Whitney Houston’s family today that she died from an overdose of a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol on Saturday February 11, 2012, and not from drowning as was thought initially.

This news, while shocking to the millions of her fans that grew up with and idolized her unmistakable voice and talent, is no surprise to Floridians, who collectively as a state are leading the nation in annual prescription drug overdose death cases.

While Whitney Houston had a long and well documented history of alcohol dependancy and illegal drug abuse over the past decade, her death appears to have been ultimately caused by the very drugs that are legally prescribed and available at local pharmacies; drugs including that of Alprazolam (XANAX) which she is reported to have ingested along with alcohol the night of her death.

Floridians have long been keenly aware of the problem that prescription drugs have been causing for several years, as the state leads the nation in the total amount of prescription painkillers sold and the overall prescription drug overdose rate per resident. Below are the cold hard facts showing the total deaths in Florida involving one or more prescription drugs that caused a fatal overdose:

2010 deaths caused by a fatal overdose – FLORIDA

All prescription drugs:  2,284 deaths

Oxycodone: 1,516 deaths

Alprazolam (Xanax): 981 deaths

Furthermore, accidental drug overdoses from prescription drugs has more than doubled since 2001, while overdoses from illegal drugs have actually decreased, a recent Florida study states. These chilling statistics represent a widespread problem that touches every corner of America, well beyond the hyper publicized celebrity cases such as Whitney Houstons’.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), in 2010, more than 12 million people were reportedly using prescription painkillers nonmedically without a prescription, and that the use and misuse of prescription drugs was responsible for nearly 500,000 emergency department visits in 2009.


At the same time that our government is spending billions of dollars to combat the “War On Drugs” of the illegal nature, another battleground has quickly emerged right in our own homes, where pharmaceutical manufacturers may very well be our next enemy.

While drug dealers who sell cocaine, heroine and other illicit drugs must do business behind closed doors and the alleys of worn out neighborhoods, legal drugs are marketed to Americans of every age in magazines, on the radio & TV and by the very physicians who receive incentives for prescribing them. Illegal drug dealers are portrayed as societal villians, and when identified, are locked up for decades within our prison system.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 50% of all federal inmates and about 20% of state inmates are serving time for drug related offenses as of 2010. Yet, over the past decade, deaths from legally available drugs sold by legally operating corporations, prescribed by licensed physicians have TRIPLED and exceeds the annual number of deaths from illegal drugs.

While Whitney Houston had a meteoric early career marked by amazing God given talents, her life was ultimately ruined by the impact of her personal demons demonstrated outwardly by addictive behaviors and the abuse of illegal and legal drugs. Her death, while tragic, is unfortunately yet another statistical symptom of a much larger problem we face here in Florida, and across the United States.


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