Whitney Houston, Legendary Icon, Dies

Whitney HoustonThe legendary Whitney Houston, whose battles with drugs, alcohol and ex-husband Bobby Brown marred her star power, has been found dead at 48 years old.

Houston’s publicist confirmed the singer’s death to ABC News. The cause of death is not yet known.

Six police cars were spotted in front of the Beverly Hilton hotel today, where Houston was staying. TMZ reports that paramedics were called there this afternoon and found Houston unresponsive in her hotel room.

According to news sources, paramedics’ attempts at CPR failed and Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. PT, and report that there were no signs of foul play.

Houston was last seen publicly on Thursday, when she appeared disheveled and disoriented in front of a Hollywood nightclub. According to the Hollywood Reporter, she got into an altercation with “X Factor” finalist Stacy Francis on Thursday at an event where she was said to be acting “belligerent.”

Houston returned to rehab in May of last year seeking treatment for drug and alcohol dependence. “Whitney voluntarily entered the program to support her long-standing recovery process,” her publicist said at the time.

The six-time Grammy winner staged a comeback in 2009, but was dogged by rumors that she was using drugs again. That year, she told Oprah Winfrey that marijuana laced with cocaine was her substance of choice during her 1992 to 2006 marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown. They have a daughter together, Houston’s only child, Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown.

Houston’s appearance on “Oprah” was her first major television interview since 2002, when she talked to ABC News’ Diane Sawyer.

At the time, Sawyer asked Houston about ongoing drug rumors that had started in 2000, when airport security guards found marijuana in Houston and Brown’s bags at a Hawaiian airport. The singer alluded to having used cocaine, pills and marijuana — but drew the line at crack in what turned into an infamous rant.

“First of all, let’s get one thing straight,” she told Sawyer. “Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight. OK? We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is wack.”

In August 2009, Houston released “I Look to You,” her first studio album in seven years. It sold 304,000 copies in its first seven days on the market, sending Houston back to the top of the charts and giving her the best debut week of her career.

In 2010, Houston launched her “Nothing but Love” world tour. Though some said Houston’s signature voice showed the stress of her ups and downs, she soldiered on, putting on shows in Asia, Australia and Europe even though fans and critics panned her performances.

At her peak in the 1990s, Houston was a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. She was one of the world’s best-selling artists, selling out stadiums with powerful, poignant renditions of her greatest hits like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “How Will I Know,” and “I Will Always Love You.”

Houston won six Grammy awards, two Emmys, 30 Billboard Music Awards, and 22 American Music Awards, among others. Her album “Whitney” was the first album by a woman to ever debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Charts. She has sold more than 170 million albums world wide.

Her success launched her into the film industry, where she starred in hits like “The Bodyguard” and “Waiting to Exhale.” Her struggles with drugs, alcohol, rehab (she went at least three times) and Brown, against whom she filed a charge of domestic abuse in 1993, pushed her out the spotlight.

In 2009, talking to Winfrey about why she took a break from show business, Houston said, “It was too much. So much to try to live up to, to try to be, and I wanted out.”

Drug Addiction Warning Signs

Three pills and a hypodermic needleWhat does it mean to be addicted to a drug? How does it happen? Why does it happen?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 20 million Americans age 12 or older suffer from substance dependence or abuse due to alcohol, illicit drugs or both. Substance abuse disorders continue to proliferate in alarming numbers, especially in the African-American community. African Americans comprise approximately 12% of the population in the United States, yet they account for more than a quarter of admissions to publicly funded substance abuse treatment facilities.

Many people do not understand why individuals become addicted to drugs or abusive drug habits begin in the first place. They mistakenly view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem and may characterize those who take drugs as morally weak. One very common belief is that drug abusers should be able to just stop taking drugs if they are only willing to change their behavior.

What people often underestimate is the complexity of drug addiction – that it is a disease that impacts the brain and because of that, stopping drug abuse is not simply a matter of willpower. Through scientific advances we now know much more about how exactly drugs work in the brain, and we also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop abusing drugs and resume productive lives.

What Is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the individual that is addicted and to those around them. Drug addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain. Although it is true that for most people the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary, over time the changes in the brain caused by repeated drug abuse can affect a person’s self control and ability to make sound decisions, and at the same time send intense impulses to take drugs.

It is because of these changes in the brain that it is so challenging for a person who is addicted to stop abusing drugs.

Similar to other chronic, relapsing diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, drug addiction can be managed successfully. And, as with other chronic diseases, it is not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin abusing drugs again. Relapse, however, does not signal failure — rather, it indicates that treatment should be reinstated, adjusted, or that alternate treatment is needed to help the individual regain control and recover.

WARNING SIGNS:

Physical and health warning signs of drug abuse

  • Eyes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal.
  • Frequent nosebleeds–could be related to snorted drugs (meth or cocaine).
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns.  Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Seizures without a history of epilepsy.
  • Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance.
  • Injuries/accidents and person won’t or can’t tell you how they got hurt.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Shakes, tremors, incoherent or slurred speech, impaired or unstable coordination.

Behavioral signs of drug abuse

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school; loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise; decreased motivation.
  • Complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates.
  • Unusual or unexplained need for money or financial problems; borrowing or stealing; missing money or valuables.
  • Silent, withdrawn, engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Sudden change in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (arguments, fights, accidents, illegal activities).

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
  • Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or laughing at nothing.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation.
  • Lack of motivation; inability to focus, appearing lethargic or “spaced out.”
  •  Appearing fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid, with no apparent reason.