The autopsy results of singer Whitney Houston released on Thursday said she accidentally drowned in a bathtub but the "effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use" contributed to her death.
Digital Journal reported Whitney Houston died in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel suite. She was found submerged in bathtub water on February 11 by a member of her entourage.
CNN reports Los Angeles Chief Coroner Craig Harvey, in an initial autopsy report said Houston died from accidental drowning but the "effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use" contributed to her death. The coroner's one-page report said Houston was "found submerged in bathtub filled with water" but "no trauma or foul play is suspected."
The report said her cocaine use occurred in "in the time period just immediately prior to her collapse in the bathtub at the hotel." According to the report, a 60% narrowing of her arteries "suggest a cardiac event complicated by the cocaine use" led to her slipping underwater.
The coroner said: "Something happened that caused her to go down and we know that when she slipped under the water she was still alive. We have evidence of drowning since there was water in the lungs."
Los Angeles Times reports Houston had a long-drawn battle with drug addiction. The coroner's report said that traces of several drugs were found in her system, including marijuana, anti-anxiety drug Xanax, muscle relaxant Flexeril and Benadryl. But the coroner said these drugs were not related to her death.
CBS News reports the autopsy did not say how much cocaine Houston had in her system, but there were signs of both chronic and recent use. The Coroner said efforts were still on to determine the exact amount of cocaine in her system.
In a 2002 interview with ABC News, Houston had admitted using cocaine as well as marijuana. She also admitted heavy use of alcohol, but she emphatically denied using crack cocaine. She said self-consciously: “Crack is whack. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let's get that straight. OK? We don't do crack. We don't do that.”
Fox News reports that Dr. Phil Ragno, head of cardiology at Winthrop Hospital, said a drug like cocaine can exacerbate the development of atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries, hardens and narrows its lumen and limits the flow of blood to the vital parts of the body such as heart muscles. According to Ragno, cocaine use imposes a burden on the heart. He said: “[Cocaine use] puts extra demand on the heart while at the same time restricting blood supply to the heart. So at the time when the heart needs the most amount of blood, it’s getting the least amount of blood.” The specialist added: “Cocaine works in two ways—as a stimulant and anesthetic. As an anesthetic, it blocks some of the channels in the heart that move electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. This raises the risk of suffering from an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia" that may lead to death.
Ragno speculated that Houston probably suffered a cardiac arrhythmia that left her disabled and caused her to become submerged.
CBS News reports members of Houston's family said they were sad to learn she had drugs in her system at the time she drowned in the hotel bathtub. Patricia Houston, Whitney's sister-in-law and manager, in a statement, said: "We are saddened to learn of the toxicology results, although we are glad to now have closure."