Whitney Houston: Cocaine worsened heart problems, officials say
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details
Singer Whitney Houston's use of cocaine "exacerbated her heart condition" and played a role in her accidental drowning in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel suite, Los Angeles County Chief Coroner Craig Harvey said.
The long-awaited autopsy results were released Thursday after weeks of intense speculation over how the 48-year-old pop star died. It marks another high-profile Hollywood death connected to drug use, coming less than three years after Michael Jackson died suddenly at his Holmby Hills mansion. Jackson’s death resulted from intoxication involving a powerful sedative, and his doctor was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Houston had battled with drug addiction for years, and the coroner’s office found traces of several drugs, including marijuana, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril and Benadryl in her system. But the coroner’s office concluded that those drugs were not connected to her death.
Cocaine did play a role, though officials said they were still trying to determine how much cocaine was in her system.
In an interview with ABC News in 2002, Houston acknowleged using cocaine as well as marijuana and also drinking heavily at times. She strongly denied using crack cocaine.
“Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack,” she said in the interview. “Let's get that straight. OK? We don't do crack. We don't do that.”
Last May, Houston’s spokeswoman said the singer was going back into rehab.
Cocaine has played a role in several high-profile deaths among entertainers. In 1982, John Belushi died of a combined injection of cocaine and heroin known as a speedball at the Chateau Marmont on the Sunset Strip. Fellow “Saturday Night Live” peformer Chris Farley died of an accidental overdose of cocaine and morphine in Chicago in 1997.
Houston was found submerged in the bathtub of her hotel room on the afternon of Feb. 11 by an assistant. Beverly Hills Fire Department paramedics performed CPR on the singer for about 20 minutes before pronouncing her dead.
She was in Beverly Hills for music industry titan Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy party Saturday night at the Hilton. Her death cast a pall over the Grammy Awards, which took place that Sunday.
In the days before her death, Houston had been acting strangely, skipping around a ballroom, doing handstands near the hotel pool and perspiring heavily. That Thursday, she dropped by the rehearsals for the pre-Grammy party. A Grammy staffer said that as reporters interviewed Davis and singers Brandy and Monica, Houston was dancing just off camera to make them laugh.
For the record, 5 p.m., March 22: A previous version of this post said Chris Farley died in 2007. He died in 1997.
-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Whitney Houston strikes a pose during her performance at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles during taping of the "25 Years of #1 Hits: Arista Records' Anniversary Celebration" on April 10, 2000. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press