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Whitney Houston Cause of Death: Coroner Says Drowning and Drug-Induced Heart Disease

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Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

On Thursday, the Los Angeles County Coroner released the results of the autopsy performed on Whitney Houston — and the findings will come as a surprise to few. As suspected, the actress and pop icon accidentally drowned, and she had illegal drugs in her system at the time of her death.

According to the report, Houston, 48, was found submerged in a hotel bathtub on Feb. 11, just hours before she was to appear at a pre-Grammy party hosted by her mentor and “industry father,” producer and record executive Clive Davis. Several prescription bottles were found in her room, but officials said the number of pills were “not in alarming amounts.”

The coroner’s office said although water was found in Houston’s lungs, heart disease was a contributing factor in her death, mostly likely caused by years of cocaine abuse. An “acute” level of the drug was found in her system, indicating she’d used shortly before she died. Non-lethal, “therapeutic” levels of marijuana, Xanax, Benadryl and other medications were also discovered during toxicology tests.

Coroner assistant chief Ed Winter said one of two scenarios probably led to her drowning death: “She could’ve passed out first due to the intoxication from the cocaine, or she could’ve had a heart attack and then drowned.”

In a statement to the Associated Press, Whitney’s sister-in-law and manager Patricia Houston said:

“We are saddened to learn of the toxicology results, although we are glad to now have closure.”

Having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide, Houston was one of the world’s most popular artists, and still the only one ever to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits. She also starred in successful films like ‘The Bodyguard,’ and the movie soundtrack’s lead single, the epic ballad ‘I Will Always Love You,’ went on to become the best-selling single by a female artist in music history.

Sadly, Houston’s once-spectacular career was derailed some years ago by her drug problems — a long history of smoking crack cocaine left her soaring voice rough and raspy, and despite repeated stints in rehab, she was never able to fully clean herself up or launch the comeback many had hoped for.

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