Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Amy Winehouse - The Final Addiction

Last night I watched a programme called 'Autopsy.' It's a pretty ghastly series which looks at the controversial causes of death of various celebrities like Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe.

Usually I'd steer well clear of something so grisly and voyeuristic in favour of catching up goings on below stairs at Downton Abbey, but last night they were doing Amy Winehouse.

I'm rather obsessed by Amy. By her music, her tragic life, and her refusal to go to rehab.

Amy was plagued by demons. She did pretty much anything to take the edge off real life, and the huge pressures of fame achieved so young. She was bulimic. She cut herself, tattooed pretty much every inch of her tiny body, and took every drug available.

But it wasn't the heroin, the crack cocaine, the ketamine, or any of the myriad of illegal drugs that she'd taken over the years that killed her. It was the legal drug: alcohol.

It struck me that we talk about 'gateway drugs', and how smoking weed might lead to taking cocaine, which could end up leading to a heroin addiction, but what we ignore is that the real gateway drug is alcohol.

Can you imagine anyone snorting a line of non descript white powder (which could be anything from teething powder to rat poison) from the back of a toilet cistern in a grimy nightclub if they weren't already drunk? Does anyone ever have the nerve to inject heroin into a vein for the first time sober?

Isn't it alcohol - the legal drug - that gives society the taste for oblivion, and for false confidence?

Excessive alcohol use easily leads to illegal drug use, which then increases the alcohol use. Many heavy drinkers use cocaine, for example, for its ability to enable you to keep on drinking. And alcohol takes the edge off a drug comedown the following day.

Back in June I wrote a post called 'Relative Harms' (click here), about Professor Nutt's 2010 study, commissioned, then ignored, by the British Government, into the relative harms of various legal and illegal drugs.

Nutt concluded that alcohol was the fourth most harmful drug to the individual (after heroin, crack and methamphetamine), but was by far and away the most harmful drug to society as a whole, in terms of life expectancy, family disruption and road traffic accidents.

We look back at Amy's life and remember the pictures of her smoking a crack pipe, and stumbling along the road with bloodied feet from where she'd been injecting between her toes, and it's easy to assume that that's the behaviour that killed her.

But there were no traces of illegal drugs in her body when Amy died. Her GP says she'd been clean of drugs for two years. However, Amy's post mortem showed a blood alcohol level five times the drink driving limit.

Amy had managed, according to friends, family and doctors, to give up all the 'hard drugs'. The one that defeated her was the 'soft', sophisticated, acceptable drug: alcohol.

Alcohol destroyed Amy's final years. It ruined her voice, and her ability to perform. Remember her disastrous, drunken and incoherent last attempts at performing live in Belgrade? (I thought about posting a link, but it's too awful to watch) Friends say she became increasingly alienated and lonely.

Amy must have known that alcohol was destroying her, because she quit drinking for two weeks before her final binge, and was taking (prescribed) drugs to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Experts believe that, as a result, her tolerance to alcohol had decreased. That's why her final, lonely, binge killed her.

Here's to you, lovely, talented, haunted Amy,

SM x


  1. Very sad and very true. I remember reading that she hadn't actually drunk that much but was so clean and as she was so thin it did t take much to kill her. I think that alone is enough to stop me drinking again as we need to appreciate we would have a very low tolerance now and the couple of bottles we used to knock back could kill us.

  2. Amy Winehouse had many addition problems but its not right to say it was alcohol that killed her. It was bulimia. Her eating disorder far outweighed any other issues and contributed to her organs failing.Her organs just could not process the final drinking session she had. I agree with everything else you said though. X

  3. I think 27 year olds think they're too young to die and most the time, they're right. But sometimes they are not. Now, I know so many 45-50 year old women who think they are too young to die of alcohol poisoning or years of alcohol abuse, but I've had three acquaintances who have. It's such a waste. Every day sacrificed to alcohol is a waste.

  4. of topic - sort of...

    more more I can not understand why our civilised civilisation has accepted alcohol in our society and are treating it as it was milk or bread.
    is it the money governments earn on taxes, is it a way to keep people quiet (small - not letting them grow to full potential, reduce medical cost as they die earlier?

    on topic, poor poor amy (having a similar interest/obsession/admiration for her)

  5. Morning SM
    I am one of your lurkers, having found your site through soberistas.
    I have finally read all your posts and am up to date. Day 100 for me, (standing ovation).
    Am so happy I found you and tts and Mrs D to convince me I am not alone.
    And so true about Amy W. What a waste of talent. So hard to put down the bottle......
    I am on the sober bus and clinging on for dear life.
    Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Huge congrats oneistoomany on 100 days! Yay!!! You rock! Carry on clinging on - it only gets better from here xxx