Whitney Houston: Cocaine in system not a fatal dose, expert says
An expert who reviewed the Whitney Houston autopsy report said the amount of cocaine found in the singer's system was not a lethal dose.
A final Los Angeles County coroner's report described the singer being discovered submerged face-down in hot water in the bathtub of her Beverly Hills hotel suite with an unidentified white powdery residue left in a spoon on the bathroom counter.
The report released Wednesday confirmed that the 48-year-old singer drowned, with heart disease and cocaine use listed as contributing factors. It concluded that Houston's death was accidental.
A personal assistant found her dead in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the report said. The water was described as "extremely hot," and the singer had scalding burns when she was examined.
Houston had battled drug addiction for years, and the report found that Houston had a perforation in her nose typical of habitual cocaine users.
Toxicology test results showed that she had cocaine in her system at the time of her death. The coroner's office also found traces of several other drugs — including marijuana, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril and the over-the-counter allergy remedy Benadryl — in her system.
Dr. Nachman Brautbar, a toxicologist and professor emeritus at USC who reviewed the toxicology report, said the level of cocaine in Houston's system was not at a toxic level. He estimated that she had taken the cocaine two hours or more before getting in the tub.
Brautbar said none of the drugs on its own was at a toxic level, but the combination might have contributed to her losing consciousness and slipping under water.
"The combination was toxic for her," he said.
On a counter in the bathroom, investigators found an ashtray filled with cigarette butts and a "small spoon with a white crystal-like substance in it, and a rolled-up piece of white paper." They also found prescription drug bottles on the counter and a small plastic bag that had been ripped open. In a drawer, they found a portable mirror with more remnants of a white, powdery substance. Coroner's officials said they did not test the powder, saying that was a job for police. The Beverly Hills Police Department did not release any information about the substance Wednesday.
The release of the coroner's report also means that police will be able to wrap up their investigation into Houston's death. Beverly Hills police spokesman Lt. Mark Rosen said the investigation had been on hold pending release of the final report.
-- Andrew Blankstein and Abby Sewell