The death of Whitney Houston is horrible news for her family, her friends, and her fans. At this point, it’s not clear exactly what caused Houston’s death, although there seems to be rampant speculation about the surrounding circumstances.
What seems to be clear is that for years Houston battled substance abuse issues. As a result, she never reached the heights that were anticipated for someone with her stunning voice, her exquisite phrasing and timing, and her transfixing stage presence.
The social costs of substance abuse are staggering. Those costs are borne, most directly and most brutally, by the families of those who are in the grips of addiction. Those families must deal with the lying, the heartbreak, the anger, and the pain that the addiction of a family member inevitably brings.
At times, when a well-known figure falls prey to addiction, the pool of people affected becomes broader, and society as a whole is deprived of the music, or artwork, or performances that the addict might have delivered. The failure of gifted individuals to realize the full potential of their enormous talents is a tragic loss for the world — but we should never forget that the most profound loss will be felt by the families.