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Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning.

Yesterday, as I reported, the coroner at St. Pancras Coroner’s Office, London, released the toxicology report on Amy Winehouse, the 27-year-old British singer found dead in her flat on July 23. The official finding is that Winehouse’s death was due to alcohol poisoning. Her blood alcohol contained five times the legal limit of alcohol, which stopped her breathing and sent her into a coma. Three empty vodka bottles were found near her body in her bedroom.

Ironically, Amy Winehouse burst upon the international music scene with her 2006 hit single, “Rehab,” in which she famously refuses treatment for her alcohol and drug abuse:

“Rehab” became her anthem over the next five years as we watched, played out in the press, her very public spiral downward, in particular, the tumult that led up to her divorce from Blake Fielder-Civil, her husband of two years, whom she had met in a bar:

Blake Fielder-Civil and Amy Winehouse

“In addition to the reported drug use, Winehouse was famously caught on video carving the words ‘I Love Blake’ into her stomach with a shard of glass, and during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, she displayed photos of the couple passing pills to each other with their tongues.

But the Sid-and-Nancy-style love affair was also accompanied by photos of heated arguments that ended with both sporting bruises and scratches, as well as an arrest in Norway in October 2007 for marijuana possession; the couple were released with a fine. Just months after the wedding, Fielder-Civil was arrested on charges of suspicion of attacking a bar landlord and attempting to bribe him to drop the allegation. Following his incarceration, Winehouse was frequently seen wandering the streets of her Camden neighborhood in a daze, and she subsequently canceled a U.S. tour.” (source)

Some people laughed at Amy’s troubles; others scolded her for her misbehavior. Those familiar with addiction did neither. They knew all too well this predictable pattern. If Amy didn’t get treatment for addiction, she would die.

At yesterday’s inquest, Amy’s parents and friends listened as Amy’s doctor recounted how Amy had been totally resistant to any therapies that could have helped her with her drinking problems. That foolish decision robbed her of her health, beauty, freedom, and happiness, and, finally, her life.

In reporting the inquest’s findings, I have run across some websites with headlines saying, to the effect, that Amy did it to herself, that she deserves no pity: she drank herself to death. You will find none of these attitudes here. Yes, Amy Winehouse is responsible for her own troubles and the suffering she caused herself and others. But Amy was grappling with something she was powerless to control. She was an alcoholic who tried to control her drinking, which she could not.

Amy Winehouse, circled, as a 13-year-old pupil at the Sylvia Young Theatre.

Addiction is an illness. It is chronic, progressive, and, if left untreated, sometimes fatal. Amy Winehouse suffered from an illness she dangerously thought she could manage alone. Rest in peace, Amy Winehouse.

For more on Amy Winehouse on this blog, click here.

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