NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Although the toxicology results on the death of singer Whitney Houston won't be ready for weeks, there is speculation that a mix of prescription drugs and alcohol may have played a role.
Public health officials have been increasingly concerned about people who combine medications with alcohol.
By themselves, and in regular doses, doctors say drugs like Ativan and Xanax are relatively safe, although not without side effects.
"It is so common and so many people take it that most people don't realize its potential dangers. It is addictive," warns Dr. David Zich of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Zich says this class of drugs becomes truly dangerous, and even potentially fatal when combined with alcohol.
"They go into such a deep sleep that they are in a coma and don't breathe enough to get oxygen to their brain. If you have excessive amounts like an overdose you can have seizures, your blood pressure can drop dangerously low," Dr. Zich explains.
More than half of all Americans now report taking at least one prescription drug in the last month, so warnings about the dangers of combining drugs with alcohol, or even other prescription drugs have never been more important.