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Video: Mixing prescription pills can be a deadly dose

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    >>> back now at 7:42 with a reality check on the dangers of prescription drug abuse . it's an issue being talked about as officials look into whether the drugs played a role in whitney houston 's death. according to the cdc, the abuse of prescription medications has become the fastest growing drug problem in the united states . dr. nancy snyderman is nbc's chief medical editor. good morning. good to see you.

    >> hi, savannah.

    >> we should repeat at the outset we don't know the cause of death for whitney houston . the l.a. times reports prescription drugs were found in her room and investigators are looking at the pharmacies where the drugs were prescribed from. setting that aside, i guess the issue is first of all, why does it take so long for the toxicology results to come back?

    >> i'm not sure it's taking so long. i think they have a good idea now. at the time of the initial autopsy it was immediately looked for a source of immediate drowning. they ruled out sources of immediate death -- they ruled out drowning quickly. it came pretty fast through spinal fluid , blood that they can find out what drugs are there. they will look for drug residues residues. they want to get this one right. i have a feeling they know well but they want a complete report.

    >> this has raised the issue of the use of prescription drugs . some are now household names like xanax, the benzodiazepines. celebrities are known to use them but regular people have them in their medicine cabinets and may use them casually. may even have a glass of wine sometimes with it. to that you say what?

    >> i think we have to be careful. i think we have to throw race into this. this is not a black woman on cocaine. this is a woman of affluence able to get her hands on these medications. it's heath ledger all over again. whether it's a doctor or a concierge who gave her the medications it came through the legal pipeline. you have to be a stupid doctor to give a drug addict addicting drugs. i hate the words wake up call or teachable moments, but this is a screaming loud moment for everybody who takes things to calm their nerves or go to sleep and they think nothing of taking a little extra. it usually starts because someone will take something to go to sleep and after a couple months you take two because you need more. then you have anxiety. you go to dinner and you have had a cocktail and you may have another. unless you're a pharmacologist and you understand how the drugs interact, one can potentiate the other. it's very easy to put yourself into a coma or cause a heart attack or sudden death . you can do it whether you're a person of affluence or whether you live on the street. the idea that you have a prescription lulls people into a false sense of safety.

    >> some commentators have said there are people in the world who are bent on destroying themselves and there is nothing you can do. do you take that view or do you think the prescription drug can be an illness, the same way alcoholism is considered an illness?

    >> i saw that comment. there is some truth that some people are self-destructive, but give me a break. there are people around someone in need who can step in. it requires an intervention. family and friends who are willing to sever the ties and put their friendship and sometimes their paychecks at risk by saying, you're in trouble. i can see it. i'm not going to be codependent with you. for every physician who doesn't do a complete history and gives medication to somebody, shame on them, too. just one final thing before we draw judgment. we don't know whose name is on the prescription bottles. we don't know the physicians. that's going to be the next point of investigation. but there were a lot of warning signs and a lot of codependent people around whitney houston who could have taken a chance and saved her life and chose not to.

    >> a lot of unanswered questions. dr. nancy snyderman , thank you for your perspective this morning.

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