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Dr Manny's Notes

Will we ever learn the lethal lesson of alcohol and drugs?

Singer Whitney Houston poses with a lifetime achievement trophy at the first ever World Women's Award ceremony in Hamburg's Congress Center, in northern Germany, on June 9, 2004.AP Photo/Christof Stache

Upon hearing the news of Whitney Houston's death yesterday, I was deeply saddened.  In my opinion, Houston was the greatest singer who ever lived, and I, like many others, want to take a moment to mourn the loss of such an incredible musical talent.

While the cause of her death is still unknown, TMZ reported Sunday that prescription drugs were found in the Beverly Hills Hilton hotel room where Houston was found.  TMZ also reported that family members said that Houston had been taking the drug Xanax.

Xanax is a psychoactive drug used to treat anxiety and other pain disorders.  It works by binding to receptors in the brain in order to slow down chemicals that may have become unbalanced.  This ultimately relieves tension and eventually reduces symptoms that result from various anxiety disorders.

Xanax is a prescription drug, so unless these pills were obtained illegally, Houston must have had them prescribed by a physician.  If that's the case, I'm sick and tired of these physicians not really understanding that folks who have had a drinking problem are extremely vulnerable to the side effects of mixing Xanax with alcohol.  Alcohol incredibly increases the power and the central nervous system effects of many benzodiazepines, Xanax being one of them.

It is well known that Houston had a history of substance abuse.  She had herself said that she was once addicted to cocaine, and even the night before her death, she was allegedly seen drinking very late into the night.  When a patient asks me for drugs to deal with emotional issues, I always have to be aware of what those underlying emotional issues are, as well as previous health conditions.  It does not make any sense to me when folks who have a history of drug dependency are not properly monitored before giving them drugs that alter their moods.

Sometimes people who take these drugs don't realize that their medications could have potentially dangerous side effects when taken in combination with other substances and could make them impaired.  This could potentially lead to accidents happening.  I know it was reported by TMZ that Houston was found in the bath tub of her hotel room, so it makes perfect sense to me that perhaps side effects from these prescription pills made her unconscious and may have led her to drown.

I know that the autopsy report is still pending along with the toxicology reports, but if these prescription pills were indeed a contributing factor in Houston's death, I want to know if any physicians were involved in prescribing these drugs to her.  It might just be that their irresponsibility contributed to the death of one of the greatest American voices to have ever topped the charts.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as FOX News Channel's (FNC) Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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