Did John Belushi die from cocaine?

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Reason's Jacob Sullum posts an interesting discussion in the Hit and Run blog, reacting to a New York Times story last Sunday titled "Cocaine: Hidden in Plain Sight." The NYT article observed:
[F]or a generation that has not had its John Belushi to drive home the dangers of drug abuse, references and even use [of cocaine] are open, casual, even blatant.
Did Belushi actually die from cocaine, though? Sullum quotes addiction psychologist Stanton Peele on the topic:
John Belushi did not die from cocaine and heroin use, and our saying he did is a feeble way of trying to suppress the horrible conclusions his death suggests. This man did everything he could to guarantee he would not survive. It is at least as correct to say that he died of cigarettes, overeating, and alcohol as to blame his death on one or another—or more than one—illicit substance.
Bottom line, there is more than one way to destroy yourself -- it's not always the drugs, even if drugs are in the mix. By the way, former CASA #2 man Herb Kleber figures prominently in the NYT piece. This is a bit of minor history about Kleber from a 1996 article I put together for our original print newsletter, The Activist Guide:
In the June 2 edition of the Jellinek Quarterly, a book review of a Ph.D. dissertation on HIV among drug users in Amsterdam referred to comments made by Dr. Herbert Kleber, of the Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University, that the author felt were motivated by ideology and conflicted with objective scientific findings. In a speech titled "Harm Reduction or Harm Production," Kleber said that HIV rates among drug users in the Netherlands had increased, and attributed it harm reduction programs like low-threshold methadone programs, needle exchange projects that he claimed "extended the addiction." An audience member pointed that HIV among drug users in the Netherlands had gone down, not up, and cited articles published in some of the most prestigious international journals. Dr. Kleber admitted that he was not familiar with those articles.
Check back soon for a Chronicle review of the new book by continuing CASA #1 guy, Joe Califano.
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Who actually does die from cocaine?

In response to the Belushi article - I have had personal experience concerning medical examiners and drug-related death.

When my uncle died, he was found face down on his kitchen floor, and the police were called. They searched the residence and the police report indicated that the place was spotlessly clean and there were no signs of either violence or drugs/alcohol in the residence. The medical examiner detected "trace amounts" of cocaine in his blood. Now in case anyone reading does not realize what "trace" means, it is basically how they characterize detectable amounts of a substance which are not high enough to claim as toxic or intoxicating. The medical examiner also indicated that the cause of death was a heart attack. So - his death certificate says "cocaine related heart attack". This is the juice that they use to feed their propaganda machine. The M.E. did not consider any of the following:

- he had two previous heart attacks, attributed to arterial blockage
- he was instructed for years by his doctor to stop eating bacon by the POUND, and other various bad dietary habits
- he was instructed by his doctor to stop smoking, again for years before his death
- ditto for alcohol
- he did not follow ANY of his doctors advice
- the traces of cocaine were exactly that, traces .. not current intoxication

My uncles position on his bad health habits was "why do I want to live for 30 more years miserable when I can live for 10 more happy", and that is pretty much what he got.

I guess now, it is what it is, but he was turned into yet another statistic for the drug czar to use in his self-perpetuation propaganda, but those who matter know he did not die from cocaine. I just think its positively atrocious for the system to play games with people in this manner just to have fluff for their agendas.

Forced overdose

The cocaine John Belushi OD's on came from an LAPD evidence locker.  He wasn't forced to keep taking it, but was strongly encouraged by a police snitch called Cathy Smith to keep doing more, so he wouldn't leave the apartment which the police were planning to raid later that day.

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