Whitney Houston's Death Highlights the Dangers of Xanax, a Drug That Really Isn't Worth It

Many people, when they got word of Whitney Houston’s death, assumed substance abuse was to blame. Houston had admitted to substance abuse in the past, had been in rehab, and she looked disheveled and appeared out of it in a photograph only two days before her death. 

Though the toxicology report will not be available for weeks, numerous reports named Xanax as a possible culprit for Houston’s death. Xanax, the nation’s ninth highest-earning drug, is a psychoactive drug that helps calm panic attacks. But is Xanax calming or a killer?

Xanax is used to treat chronic anxiety and panic disorders. It is also used to help someone relax in times of stress or when one has a fear. Another use is to reduce nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

These uses, of course, come with side effects. One side effect of Xanax is loss of inhibition. If Houston had taken Xanax and experienced this effect, then that could have prompted her to consume other drugs or alcohol. Other side effects are fatigue or amnesia. Sedatives like Xanax are also very addictive.

Xanax binds to the gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABAA) sites in the Central Nervous System (CNS). Upon activation of the receptor, GABA induces an inhibitory effect on the CNS, thus stopping a possible panic attack. Overdose from Xanax alone is rare. The problem occurs when other drugs that have an inhibitory effect on the CNS are taken along with Xanax. This cocktail of inhibitory drugs slows down the brain's metabolism to the point where your heart rate and breathing will also begin to slow. This can be catastrophic.

If Houston was indeed taking Xanax as well as other psychoactive drugs such as Valium or Ativan, she could have overdosed from these prescription drugs. Authorities have confirmed that she had numerous prescription drugs in her room at the time of her death. And alcohol may have played a part as well. 

If faced with taking a Xanax, turn around. Know that there are other ways to reduce anxiety, like yoga. Taking one isn’t always worth the possible complications or addiction. Especially if it can kill you.

Do you believe Xanax contributed to Houston’s death?

Photo Credit: JohnofHammond

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Alexander M. Spring

Alexander Spring is from New York City. He is currently a sophomore at Tufts University in Medford, MA. Alex is a Cognitive and Brain Sciences major, Economics minor and is pre-med. Additionally, Alex writes for the Huffington Post as well as The Tufts Daily.

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