The lesson amid the sadness

Whitney Houston's loss is a sobering reminder of the dangers of substance abuse

If substance abuse didn’t kill Whitney Houston, it was undoubtedly a co-conspirator.

The icon who possessed perhaps the most powerful female voice in modern music history, along with eyes and a smile that could light up a Hollywood set, was famous for her addiction battle. There is little doubt that, at the end of the day, she drowned of a substance other than water.

If the silencing of this song bird didn’t bring you to tears, go back and watch her soaring rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl, available on YouTube.com. That moment, and her voice, will live forever.

Her passing is a tragedy that exceeds even Houston’s fame and talent, for it’s a red flag for the entire entertainment world and all those who follow it with zeal: The notion that substance abuse is no more than a lifestyle choice that makes for great fun at parties has simply got to be buried with this beautiful singer.

Her death at 48, as untimely as it is for her and her family and fans, comes at an opportune moment to remind the nation of the dangers of substance abuse. Medical marijuana supporters have succeeded in stripping away much of the drug’s stigma in several states – and the libertarian-leaning presidential candidate Ron Paul would, if he could, end federal proscriptions against drugs that are currently illegal.

While we agree with Paul on many aspects of the federal government’s abuse of power, we diverge with him on illicit drugs. He sees drug
use as a personal habit; in fact, they are a societal ill affecting us all. It’s also naïve to think that
criminalization of drugs is the problem: Much of the damage done by drugs – on the roads, in adult relationships, in the care and treatment of children – has zero to do with their being illegal, and everything to do with what they do to people’s heads.

Meanwhile, the rampant abuse of legal prescription drugs is a winked-at epidemic eroding lives and families and even making our streets less safe. It also has a federal fiscal component: Such things as federal assistance fraud are greatly exacerbated by the lure of drugs such as Oxycontin, which Food Stamp recipients can obtain by selling the fruits of public aid. It has become a huge problem on the streets.

Regardless of the politics, one would hope the outpouring of love and lament for Whitney Houston at the Grammy awards Sunday night would translate into an apolitical, extra-judicial, ground-up war on drugs by the entertainment industry itself. Please, no more public platitudes and off-camera snickers as the world’s most talented and promising performers destroy themselves as their peers and sycophants cheer it on – and as pliable young fans look on.

Losing Whitney Houston is a deep tragedy that will only be made deeper if we fail to learn from it.

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