September 21, 2014

Houston's death a lesson in drug danger

By Jessie Tobias
Staff Writer | info@ogemawherald.com
Posted 2/22/12

These days, children are learning at a young age that drugs are bad — they skew judgment, they’re addictive, and basically, they can ruin your life.

Many kids accept this at face value when they’re younger. After all, if an adult says it, it must be true, right? But then they get older and start exploring the boundaries of being a young adult... and they might start to doubt what they’ve heard about the danger of drugs.

It doesn’t help that they’re at high risk of being led astray by their peers.

“Come on,” their friends might say with a disdainful sneer. “Trying something once won’t kill you.”

Well, it might not. But deciding to try drugs is a bad decision, which can lead to more bad decisions. And Whitney Houston’s death earlier this month proved just how true that is — and just how badly those decisions can screw up a life.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about how celebrity news shouldn’t be highlighted by news stations. With this week’s column, I’m going to eat my words.

Again, I found the media circus surrounding Houston’s death to be inappropriate. Her death is a sad, sad thing, and her family deserves to be left in peace to grieve. But I think the event does need to be publicized, if only because what happened to her is a prime example of the dangers of drugs and alcohol use.

I was a kid during Houston’s heyday, and her music was a part of the background of my youth. I was more interested in My Little Ponies at the time, so I didn’t pay her any special attention as a pop music icon; she was just a voice on the radio. However, after her death, when many clips of music videos and performances were brought out, dusted off, and aired, I found myself marveling at the musical gift she had — and how she let it be ruined.

I’m sure by now many people have seen the clip of Houston singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl. (I was 5 years old at the time, and my family has never been full of football fans, so I didn’t see it live.) What a voice! It soared through the stadium, lifting the audience with it.

With such talent to share with the world, how could Houston let drugs and alcohol take precedence over her music? Considering her talent and passion for singing, her decline is a testament to the power drugs can have over a person; and though she struggled with her addictions for years, eventually Houston lost her music in a drug-induced fog.

What a bright star, and how sad the fact that it was dimmed, and then snuffed, by bad decisions.

So, the bottom line: prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in our area, and the rise of synthetic drugs is a very disturbing trend. I’ve seen the TV commercials urging people to keep their pills locked up, and we’ve run a few stories about drug abuse here at the paper since I started working here last year. To me, they say one thing: “Drugs are dangerous.”

There is no “safe” age, nationality, financial class, or location. Everyone is at risk. The fact that drugs can destroy someone like Houston — who had it all: fame, fortune, beauty, talent, passion — ought to prove just how dangerous drugs are. And it ought to prove to kids that their parents, teachers and coaches aren’t blowing smoke.

Drugs are a really, really bad idea.

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