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How Did Amy Winehouse Die? The Truth About Her Bulimia, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse And Conspiracy Theories

YourTango logo YourTango 7/10/2018 YourTango

How did Amy Winehouse die? © Provided by NewsCred How did Amy Winehouse die? How did Amy Winehouse die? If you search for the official cause of Amy Winehouse's death, chances are you will come across several dramatic photos of the whippet-thin singer, who was born on September 23, 1987 and became famous for her sensuous R&B style of singing on tracks like "Back to Black" and her unique sense of style, her hair piled into a perfectly messy beehive and eyes framed with dramatically swooped liquid liner and the words "alcohol intoxication." 

On the surface, the story of Amy's death is a simple, sad, and all too familiar one: a 27  year-old musical powerhouse — one with drug issues, alcohol issues, and food issues — lived too fast and died as a result. However, if you even begin to scratch the surface it can become all too easy to understand why there was so much controversy and conspiracy surrounding her death. Some folks darkly believed it had something to do with the infamous "27 Club", others believe a drug overdose was being covered up. The fact that the cause of her death was determined (and then a secondary investigation into her death began) is more than enough to raise a few eyebrows. So let's parse the wheat from the chaff and find out what really caused her death. 

The story of the singer's final days has been well documented, thanks to reports from her live-in bodyguard, Andrew Morris. 

On July 22, 2011, Winehouse was visited in her home by her physician, Dr. Christina Romete, who later recounted that "only two months before, after Amy had drunk herself into a coma, Dr Romete had warned her in writing that her habit of binge drinking was putting her in ‘immediate danger of death’." After approximately three weeks of sobriety, Amy, who repeatedly refused her doctors' pleas for her to engage in therapy, had relapsed "because she was bored." 

Morris, who was there that evening, told the court at the second of two inquests on the cause of her death (more on that later) that she seemed to be her "usual, bubbly self," and that while she had been drinking, she "wasn't completely drunk." They spent a few hours together watching videos on YouTube and looking up pictures of her online. Hindsight can make it easy for us to want to point a finger of blame on Morris but ultimately, in spite of her issues, Amy Winehouse was an adult, and not only that, in this instance she was also Morris's employer. 

Morris left her home around 2:30 am, some point after which she went to the bathroom and vomited, which may have been a deliberate choice given her history of bulimia. He returned the next day around 10 am, found her in bed and assumed she was still sleeping. When he returned to check in on her again at 3 pm, she hadn't changed positions, so he tried unsuccessfully to find a pulse and called the paramedics. Winehouse was declared dead at the scene on Saturday, July 23, 2011. 

After two inquests into her death, Winehouse was determined to have died by "misadventure," which in England is is the legal term for "death caused by a person accidentally while performing a legal act without negligence or intent to harm." According to the coroner's report, her blood alcohol level was 416 mg per 100 ml. To spare us all math, that this is five times the legal limit for drunk driving in the UK. FIVE. TIMES. This led to alcohol poisoning and caused her to stop breathing, i.e., respiratory arrest.

Because Winehouse was such an iconic figure, there has been a great deal of speculation regarding just how Amy Winehouse really died. 

Speculation boomed overnight when officials announced there would be a second inquest into the cause of her death. The reason for the second inquest was a little scandalous, which didn't help matters much. The coroner on the first inquest was Suzanne Greenaway.

Greenway was appointed by her own husband, Dr Andrew Reid who works as the head coroner for most of Northern London. Coroners in London are required to have five years experience in the Law Society. Greenway didn't have the required experience so when this came to light, she stepped down. Her husband also made the decision to step down from his post. 

Thankfully, in spite of this scandal, the second inquest performed by St Pancras coroner, Dr Shirley Radcliffe confirmed the original findings:"She voluntarily consumed alcohol, a deliberate act that took an unexpected turn in that it caused her death."

New inquest repeated the findings that Winehouse had 416mg of alcohol per decilitre in her blood, enough to make her comatose and depress her respiratory system." In the second inquest, there was also testimony from Amy Winehouse's primary care doctor, Dr Christina Romete, who said that Amy had stopped used using heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis prior to traveling to St. Lucia in April of 2009, which is when her drinking became more problematic. 

There were some conspiracy theorists out who made a lot out of the fact that she was officially entered into "The 27 Club" — "a list of popular musicians, artists or actors that have died at age twenty seven often as a result of drug and alcohol abuse, or violent means such as homicide, suicide, or transportation-related accidents," which currently includes Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, in addition to Winehouse.

These theorists believed that her inclusion into this nefarious "club" must signify that her death was organized and executed by some shadowy force we have yet to uncover. To date, there is no information to support that such a plot ever existed. 

Alcohol consumed in excessive amounts can be lethal, that's just a fact. We often don't think of booze as something deadly, but that's because most of us aren't alcoholics. While drugs like marijuana and cocaine are either heavily regulated or totally illegal, in order to buy alcohol all you have to do is pass the age requirement.

Alcohol is readily available in the US, and in places like London you can easily buy alcohol at even your local corner store. Staying sober isn't an easy feat for anyone and because this "drug" is legal, people foolishly believe that it is harmless. It isn't. In 2015 in America alone more than 30,700 people died from alcohol-related illnesses. 

While her ingestion of alcohol may have caused the physical responses that led to respiratory arrest and her death, there's another factor which many people, including her own brother, believe contributed as much, if not more, to her premature death. Amy Winehouse had bulimia, and combining that eating disorder with her drug and alcohol abuses was more dangerous than playing a game of Russian Roulette. 

When interviewed by Observer Magazine about his late sister in 2013, Amy's brother Alex Winehouse said, "She suffered from bulimia very badly. That's not, like, a revelation — you knew just by looking at her. She would have died eventually, the way she was going, but what really killed her was the bulimia. I think that it left her weaker and more susceptible. Had she not had an eating disorder, she would have been physically stronger."

Bulimia isn't kind or easy on the body. Just like other eating disorders, it takes a tremendous physical toll. While bulimia in and of itself is an extremely dangerous condition, adding alcohol and/or substance abuse into the equation escalates the risk of fatality tremendously.

Lorna Garner, who at the time was the CEO of UK eating disorder charity Beat, had this to say about the deadly combination, "It is possible that Amy Winehouse died because from the combination of her eating disorder and her issues with drink and drugs. The physical impact of an eating disorder over a sustained period of time includes organ damage. Some people have renal (kidney) failure, hepatic (liver) damage, weakening of the heart muscles and damage to the digestive system, amongst many other physical problems.This means the body’s organs are not able to deal with processing alcohol in the same way that healthy organs would, and therefore the likelihood of organ failure is greater."

The link between bulimia and alcoholism is one that has been well established.

Studies have found that "prevalence of bulimia among treatment-seeking women with alcohol use disorders has been reported to vary between 30-50% across studies. Similarly, the prevalence of alcohol use disorder among women with bulimia has been found to vary between 20-25%," which could be due to "genetic factors, other biological factors, psychological factors, environmental factors, or a mix of these."

Much has been made about Amy Winehouse's hard-partying ways but in my opinion, we have not spoken out loud nearly enough about her bulimia diagnosis.

She was in the limelight for a long time, which couldn't have helped with any pre-existing body image issues she might have had to begin with, and her dramatic change in appearance makes her struggle painful and real. 

Thankfully, Amy's talent and the immense gifts she left behind are a tremendous legacy.

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However, the sad end to her story is one that shouldn't be ignored or forgotten. It's something everyone should — and could learn from — to help prevent such tragedies from ever happening again.  

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a sex, humor and lifestyle writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the sex, love, and dating advice show, Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.

This article was written by Rebecca Jane Stokes from YourTango and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Gallery: What happens to your body when you give up alcohol (Eat This! Not That!)

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