The Fallacy of the Whitney Houston Enabler Theory

TMZ is still running articles about Whitney Houston. Today it has a story quoting unnamed sources about how her friends enabled her alcohol use. The conclusion the article wants readers to reach is that Whitney Houston's friends contributed to her death by encouraging her excessive alcohol use. The article ends with:

We know she drank alcohol shortly before her death, and we're told she typically took Xanax -- one of the drugs found in her room -- before a performance to calm her nerves, and she was scheduled to sing at Clive Davis' Grammy party.

But other sources, like Rolling Stone, with quotes from Clive Davis, say Whitney was not scheduled to perform at the party, she was only scheduled to attend.

"She was so looking forward to tonight even though she wasn't scheduled to perform. She loved music, and she loved this night that celebrates music."


USA Today also reported she was not scheduled to perform.

So, who's right? Because if she wasn't performing at Davis' party, it puts a bit of a crimp in the logic of TMZ's speculative stories that she died from a combination of Xanax and an excessive amount of alcohol, and the alcohol was too willingly supplied by her enabler friends.

According to TMZ, room service delivered a beer and glass of champagne with Whitney's food order. Was all the food and drink for Whitney or was some for the friends, family and staff in her room? We don't know. Would Whitney really have ordered both a hamburger and fries and a turkey sandwich just for herself? Why assume both the can of beer and the champagne were for her?

It sounds more plausible to me that two peple were eating, and one drink was for the person having the burger and fries and the other drink was for whoever was having the turkey sandwich. But TMZ's sources say both meals were for her, and that after eating the burger and fries, she took the turkey sandwich into the bathroom. And the bathroom photo does show an empty tray. (Although no one knows what, if anything, was re-arranged, removed or added in the 15 minutes before the medics arrived.)

If not performing at Davis' party, would Whitney have been nervous enough about simply attending it to take Xanax hours earlier, before she even started having her hair and makeup done? She certainly didn't need it to veg out in the chair -- getting your makeup and hair done takes an hour or more and is a pretty low-key event.

TMZ is speculating that she took Xanax that afternoon and combined it with alcohol. And that because she died, her use was really abuse, which nicely feeds right into its story that Whitney's friends "enabled her" alcohol use, as if they, like Whitney herself, were responsible for her death.

How many times will TMZ refer to the multiple bottles of pills in her room, as if she was a walking pharmacy? Regardless of the number of bottles, TMZ says there were three drugs: Xanax, Amoxicillan (an anti-biotic used for ear or throat infections) and ibuprofen (Advil, which doesn't require a prescription except in large dosages, and even then, it's not mind-altering). But, look at the side-effects of ibuprofen:

People who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (other than aspirin) such as ibuprofen may have a higher risk of having a heart attack or a stroke than people who do not take these medications. These events may happen without warning and may cause death.

Several recent studies link high dosage ibuprofen and heart attacks and strokes.

There was also a bottle of non-prescription Midol, used for menstrual cramps. Were those even Whitney's, who was 48, as opposed to her daughter's or the hair stylist's? Regardless, there was one abusable drug in the room: Xanax. No bottles of alcohol -- just what came up with room service on the lunch order.

Why is the media so intent on tarnishing Whitney Houston's legacy? What happens if the toxicology reports show another cause of death -- and the coroner concludes that she did not die from a combination of Xanax and alcohol? The media will run it a few times, but with nowhere near the intensity with which it speculated to the contrary, and Whitney Houston will forever be remembered first for her substance abuse issues and second for her music.

The answer: just like guilt, substance abuse and drug addiction sells in America. Everybody loves to see someone fall. For a moment they are persuaded that someone else's life is worse than their own and they don't have it so bad after all.

It's nowhere near as sexy or attention-grabbing a story if Whitney died from a combination of alcohol and ibuprofen -- or if she had a heart attack from excessive ibuprofen use -- as it is if she died from a combination of alcohol and xanax. So the media promotes the latter.

Who are the real enablers -- more like panderers -- here: Whitney Houston's friends or media outlets like TMZ? I think hands-down it's the latter.

Whitney Houston's funeral will be broadcast live on television at noon Saturday from New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. Detroit pastor Marvin Winans will deliver the eulogy. Will the media allow viewers to watch the event without the commentary of pundits who will repeat ad nauseum that Whitney Houston had drug and alcohol issues? Don't count on it.

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  • My bro-in-law is a touring musician (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Dadler on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:27:51 PM EST
    For the last few years he's been arranging for and touring with a famously addiction-addled singer slash songwriter.  He has told me that, while they're obviously not the cause of this performer's longtime troubles, a big part of the problem overcoming these issues, in his opinion, has been said performer's habit of surrounding him/herself with people who never say no to this "star."  

    Legalize and regulate, educate not incarcerate.

    Some people enjoy (none / 0) (#22)
    by jondee on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:23:01 PM EST
    living in a little more existential danger, by having friends that are liable to say "I love you, but you're full of sh*t, and here's why..", or maybe even suddenly howl at the moon, like a Sufi-wildman, while you're walking together down the street..

    Control freaks and narcissists get it the worst in the end..


    Spelling alert: it's "Fallacy," (none / 0) (#1)
    by Anne on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:08:57 PM EST
    not "Fallicy."

    As for the circus, the media's doing what it always does, and because people love sensation and thinking they're getting an inside look at the salacious details of people's lives, they just eat it up.

    No peace in life, no peace in death; her history pretty much guaranteed that people would speculate that, no matter how she died, it was somehow related to her addictions.

    Why the funeral is going to be televised is beyond me; I wouldn't give the media or the rest of the ghouls the satisfaction.

    I think she had (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:45:56 PM EST
    a lot of fans who want to view it. I'm fine with that part. Had she been one of my musical heroes, I'd appreciate the media broadcasting it. We watch funerals of heads of state, why not heads of music? It's a way of paying respects to those we look up to and those who have contributed to our lives. It's just if they have talking heads during it that I object. To me, it's tacky and removes the dignity from the event and the respect the deceased deserves.

    (I don't think I've bought a Whitney Houston recording since the 80's, so maybe I'm not the fan who should be addressing this aspect.)


    The media red-carpets everything, even (none / 0) (#13)
    by Anne on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 08:38:39 PM EST
    state funerals.  So, okay, tacky as it is, I get that "the people at home" want to see who's there, but, once the service starts, I think they just need to stop the narration, and let those watching experience it as if they were actually there.  

    Part of having a life that puts one in the public eye is that one becomes little more than property, and people begin to feel that somehow, they have a right to know the smallest details of famous people's lives.  They reap huge monetary rewards, but hanging on to a true sense of self seems to be more than many can do - and we see the inevitable results.

    I've really tried to stay away from a lot of the coverage - it's upsetting to see how many of her so-called friends and the people with whom she came into contact feel the need to dish the details with anyone who's holding a camera or a microphone.  I know some of them want to defend her, to try to build some protection around her, but for everyone who speaks out of true caring, there seem to be many more for whom the same cannot be said.

    As with all the troubled souls who've left us long before they should have, I wish her the peace in death she didn't have in life, and I hope her family and the people who truly loved her will find a measure of that peace, as well.


    thanks, thought I (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:38:51 PM EST
    fixed that before posting but guess not. I just fixed it. Much appreciated.

    regarding enablers will prove to be correct or not, but according to TMZ this is the explanation for the food:

    TMZ has obtained photos of the room where Whitney died, showing remnants of her final meal.  We're told she ordered a hamburger, fries, a turkey sandwich and jalapenos.  

    The picture also shows a Heineken can and an empty champagne glass.  Sources say the glass had been filled with champagne.

    The picture (below) was shot in the bathroom after Whitney's body was removed and shows a tray which contained the turkey sandwich and jalapenos.  

    Family sources say Whitney ate the burger and fries and took the turkey sandwich and jalapenos into the bathroom where she planned on eating both items after her bath.

    thanks, I (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:50:47 PM EST
    included all but the last part which I missed

    "Family sources say Whitney ate the burger and fries and took the turkey sandwich and jalapenos into the bathroom where she planned on eating both items after her bath."

    That's a lot to eat for lunch but there's still no alcohol in the bathroom, right? Or any report of anyone seeing her swallow a Xanax with a slug of beer or champagne while eating the burger?


    afaik, no alc in the bathroom. (none / 0) (#10)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:54:06 PM EST
    Apparently she's a big eater!

    I have no idea how much Xanax you have to take to completely knock you out, nor how it reacts with alc.

    Even if she drank it all, a beer and a glass of champagne is not what I would consider a lot of alc...


    I understand what you are saying (none / 0) (#20)
    by nyjets on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 03:19:47 PM EST
    But there are some drugs mixed with alcohol that can cause someone to pass out very very easily.
     I will admit, I do not know if that happened in that case.

    Contact Sport (none / 0) (#5)
    by koshembos on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:45:28 PM EST
    Everyone practices ice hokey no matter what the games is. Entertainment mavens check Whitney Houston, Naomi Klein knocks Larry Summer and everything see can knock down. Welcome to modern cannibalism.

    Oh, and regarding the Xanax, (none / 0) (#6)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:45:56 PM EST
    I could certainly understand if she was nervous before the party. Some big hitters there, I would imagine.

    Regardless, I guess we'll have to wait quite a while for the coroner's report before we know for sure...

    Agree with the nervous part (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:51:56 PM EST
    But why take it at 3 pm before you've even started on your hair and makeup? Why not closer to party time?

    Dunno. I know nothing about Xanax (none / 0) (#12)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:55:16 PM EST
    nor whether she took it only for nerves, or whether it was something she took at other times as well.

    Jeralyn, if she was an addict (none / 0) (#14)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 02:08:10 AM EST
    and Lord knows she's admitted to being an addict to various things over the years, she wouldn't take her drugs according to what we non-addicts might think was rational.

    Why don't we wait for the toxicology before we speculate too much one way or the other.  Given her past behavior and the extraordinary hazards of taking Xanax and alcohol together, even not to excess, it's really not unreasonable to speculate that odds are fairly high it was that combination that could have made her pass out in the  tub.  My understanding is that drugs like Xanax, especially in combination with alcohol, another CNS depressant, repress the gag reflex, making it very easy to drown or choke to death.

    And it's not like we haven't had a pretty large number of celebrities who've died recently as a result of prescription drug and alcohol use.


    I agree people should stop speculating (none / 0) (#15)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 02:20:15 AM EST
    she died from drugs and alcohol. I doubt the validity of your statement that there are "extraordinary hazards of taking Xanax and alcohol together, even not to excess." Someone who takes one xanax and has a drink is unlikely to die, unless other factors are present.

    I have no idea how she died. Only the coroner will know, and until he releases his findings, so long as people are going to speculate she died from drugs and alcohol, I'm going to point out it's just speculation and maybe they had nothing to do with her cause of death.

    But I appreciate you and the other commenters here who are willing to wait until the results are in before forming a conclusion.


    Xanax often gets prescribed in daily (none / 0) (#16)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 08:38:38 AM EST
    doses, such as 'up to three times daily AS NEEDED...' not simply at 8, 12, and 6 pm. I've been on xanax for ptsd for years. I carry a bottle with me, and i take it when i feel anxiety coming on.  Of course, this isn't daily, hourly, or even weekly.

    As far as xanax and alcohol, there are plenty of other drugs more deadly than xanax when combined with alcohol. Acetominaphin and alcohol causes liver toxicity,  too much alcohol and ibuprophin can cause stomach bleeding (I just googled these, I'm not a walking pharmacy warning).  Looking online, Xanax may increase the effects of alcohol, so using the two together are contraindicated.  However, from experience, the effect isn't so great one lapses into a coma after one xanax and one beer, especially if one has been using these two together and has developed something of a tolerance.

    the morbid approach to drugs/alcohol- a person who was 'addicted' to one drug automatically becomes addicted to another drug-- this is not factual.  Studies have demonstrated that there's a higher likelihood, but again, correlation isn't causation.

    Cross-addiction has not been examined well enough. Look at the use of nicotine and caffiene by people in recovery... some interesting articles in pharmacological journals and government-sponsored health research.

    Too bad that the talking heads on television and their researchers have a party line that avoids  both nuance and fact-checking, because they want to appear 'balanced.'  Like having a discussion religious belief with a panel consisting of that Catholic League spokesman, an Anti-Defamation League spokesperson, and a spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Convention... while leaving any other religious representative off. Furthermore, not allowing a religious studies professor, or a sociologist off of the panel.

    So it's some sort of sick pandering to authority, while digging into the life of a star.  Let's get to the news, not morbid obsession, please, oh news networks.  Here at TL's a great place to discuss. Not hours long coverage.

     Reminds me of a white Ford Bronco...


    I have a bottle of Xanax in my bag too (none / 0) (#17)
    by smott on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 12:16:24 PM EST
    Scared of flying! Need one just to get on a plane.
    Also have found it useful for public speaking, which I hate.

    My understanding is (unless one is extremly sensitive) a normal dose or two of Xanax, even combined with alcohol, really shouldn't be enough to snow you to the point you'd go underwater in the tub, and not wake immediately due to cough reflex. This at least per the medical-field (RN) type folks I know....

    I would imagine there was a good bit of available alcohol in the room - given it was a top end hotel there'd be a stacked minibar as the norm. No idea of course if any/how much of the minibar had been consumed.

    But I think to be so snowed you'd not wake immediately underwater seems unlikely, unless you'd really been pounding high quantities, or, as mentioned, were really sensitive.

    So I wonder if there was something else at play that might have caused heart failure. Not simple fainting....

    Years of drug/crack et al abuse of course might be a candidate....


    Whitney (none / 0) (#11)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 07:54:46 PM EST

    Whitney like many very talented but insecure people made her own tragic choices.  Her passing was truly sad.  The search for third parties to blame is sad as well.