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Whitney Houston's Death a 'Teachable Moment,' Says White House Drug Control Director (Video)

UPDATED: "The drug problem crosses almost every demographic and economic barrier," Gil Kerlikowske tells CBS News.

Whitney Houston Performing AMAs 2009 - H 2012
Getty Images

The White House is pointing out that Whitney Houston’s death is indicative of America’s evasive problem with prescription drugs, which the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy says has caused more than 15,000 deaths in the United States.

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"I think it's what we might call a teachable moment when someone passes, particularly someone that was as highly thought of and was such an incredible performer as Whitney Houston,” Gil Kerlikowske tells CBS News.

The director says his office and President Barack Obama saw the staggering statistics of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. and laid out a strategy for dealing with the predicament in 2009. And he hopes that Houston’s death serves as a reminder that prescription drugs are as addictive and as deadly as any other drug.

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“[Houston’s death] also tells you that the drug problem crosses almost every demographic and economic barrier,” he says. “So, we can use this as a moment to help people understand, remember there are literally millions of Americans who are struggling with this problem, either themselves or a close family member. So, we can use this as a chance to move forward.”

Houston, 48, died Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. While the singer has been public about her battles with drug addiction, autopsy results and a toxicology reporter have not been released pending a police investigation. The funeral is set for Saturday.

Watch the interview below.

Update: Houston's family confirms that her funeral will take place on Saturday.

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