Anna Nicole Smith. Heath Ledger. Michael Jackson.
And now, Whitney Houston.
On Saturday, the music superstar was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel, reportedly in a bathtub with her “face below the water and legs up”, according to the Hollywood gossip website TMZ. The website RadarOnline also said that numerous pill bottles were found in the star’s room, although authorities were not inclined to believe that there were any illegal substances.
Beverly Hills police have not given an official cause of death and are awaiting results of the singer’s autopsy which was performed on Sunday.
Still, Houston joins the list of celebrities who, according to police and medical records or toxicology reports, either tragically lost their lives from the abuse of prescription medication or where the drugs were believed to have been a factor leading up to their sudden deaths.
And as the list of famous names continues to grow, so, too, does the problem of an increasingly medicated population addicted to drugs like Oxycotin, Vicodin, Valium, Xanax, Adderall and Ritalin.
In a Facebook poll conducted Sunday by Big 3 News, two-thirds of respondents said they knew someone addicted to prescription drugs.
“I haven’t seen her in years,” one person said. “But she had it bad.”
“Yep, and not by choice,” said guardianship abuse advocate Sara Harvey. “More like government forced. That would be my husband!”
In a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the agency warns of the impact of prescription painkillers.
“Drug overdoes death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher,” said the CDC. “In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs.”
The Center went on to reveal a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of “strong painkillers.”
And the problem is not confined to Hollywood or major cities. Reports of prescription medication abuse are found in nearly all 50 states including Iowa, Idaho, Texas, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Florida and Maine.
For instance, the Maine Attorney General said the problem in his state has reached “epidemic” proportions. He has been instrumental in helping create a task force to to tackle the problem.
“More people in Maine die from drug overdoses than traffic fatalities,” Attorney General William Schneider said in a Feb. 6 interview with the Bangor Daily News. “It’s a terrible, terrible problem.”
In Ohio, Governor John Kasich has made the fight against prescription drug abuse a legislative priority. The state has launched a public awareness campaign which will include posters in convenience stores and online ads that will target the youth, where the problem is particularly troubling.
The Ohio Legislature passed, and Gov. Kasich signed into law, House Bill 93 which targets so-called “pill mills.”
On the federal level, a bill was introduced last year in the U.S. Congress by Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) to award grants to states and nonprofit entities for “consumer education about opioid abuse.”
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