- (Photo: REUTERS/John Vizcaino)
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Whitney Houston's death is an opportunity to educate the public about the issue of prescription drug addiction, in a Monday interview with CBS News.
"This brings to the attention the problem that [Houston] had talked about in the past, and that certainly is prescription drugs. It affects a huge number of people in this country and has driven deaths to very, very high numbers," Kerlikowske said.
Though the celebrity singer's official cause of death on Saturday has not been released at this point, a preliminary coroner's report showed sedatives in Houston's system. Her addiction to prescription drugs was already well known as well.
Over 15,000 deaths a year are attributable to prescription drugs, according to Kerlikowske.
"I think it is what we might call a teachable moment when someone passes," Kerlikowske said, "particularly someone that was highly thought of and was such an incredible performer as Whitney Houston."
The White House released a strategy two years ago to deal with prescription drug addiction, according to Kerlikowske. That strategy brings "state, local and federal government together with parents and educators about the problem of prescription drugs."
Houston's funeral will be on Saturday at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., which is the same church she attended as a child and first shared her singing talent.
The Los Angeles coroner's final report on the cause of Houston's death is expected in two to six weeks.