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Prescription drugs: Mix and misuse recipe for death

admin | 2/23/2012, 4 a.m.

Will Houston join list of stars who made fatal error?

Gone too soon, tragic and premature are terms that many are using to describe the death of Whitney Houston on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the age of 48. It may be several weeks before the official cause of her death is determined and announced but speculation continues to rise that her demise could have been the result of a deadly mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs. Beverly Hills police report that inside her hotel room, they found Xanax and Ibuprofen. She had been seen drinking champagne just days before her death. But according to one of Floridas most-respected physicians and addiction specialists, one message that should now be clear is that mixing drugs and alcohol are a deadly combination. Mixing drugs like playing Russian Roulette The biggest problem with prescription painkillers [opioids] is that since they are prescribed by a physician and because they have to be approved for use, people assume that they are safe and cannot cause them any harm, said Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger, past president of the Florida Society of Addiction Medicine and current Alternate Regional Director of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Heroin is an opioid too but most people understand that it can kill. The irony is that both Oxytocin and and Percocet the most often-prescribed medicines for the relief of pain are opioids too. Patients must be made aware that they cant take these painkillers whenever and however they please. Doctors arent driving the message home enough about the potential dangers. They often overemphasize how they can help and underestimate that they can be harmful. Doctors are often caught in a catch-22 position. Abuse problems in Florida among highest in U.S. Recent changes in legislation here in Florida were part of a countermove to address the steep increase of prescription opioids. Sources for these meds, often referred to as pill mills, were once among the top 40 in the U.S. says Wollschlaeger. However, the situation is improving. Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County were two hotspots for those seeking prescription drugs but with more strict controls we are reversing that situation, he said. Still, seven people die in Florida every day because of abuse. The number of deaths daily in the entire country is 40 that means we are still leading the pack. We see the entire spectrum of American society impacted by this problem its not just celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Dorothy Dandridge and possibly Whitney Houston too. Maybe they have glamorized the use of medications like Xanax, which Houston allegedly used. But when you take these medications in improper amounts, and especially when you use alcohol, the message that your brain receives is to slow down the breathing. For women who have a lower tolerance because they have a lower volume of distribution [they weigh less on average], it takes a lower amount of medication and alcohol than men to have similar effects. Thats why you often hear about college-aged women overdosing. This problem crosses all ethnic groups, ages, creeds and faiths its an equal opportunity killer. However, women need to be particularly aware of the risks.