BY NOW, you’ve probably heard about the death of British soul singer Amy Winehouse.

Winehouse’s second album, Back to Black, captured the attention of everyone who listened to it because of its originality and the sheer technical proficiency of Winehouse’s singing.

Outside of music, though, Winehouse’s life was a raucous, downward spiral as she made attempt after attempt to get off drugs and alcohol.

Winehouse tried rehabilitation, but, in the end, she always ran back to the bottle, making tabloid headlines about her destructive habits, her run-ins with the law, and performances where she could hardly stand.

It’s a horrible, sad story to lose someone with such incredible potential at such a young age and for such a stupid reason.

Police suspect that Winehouse’s death was “violent or suspicious”. An investigation into her death is being closed until Oct 26. Toxicology test results are expected by the end of August.

With her death at 27, Winehouse joins the list of performers who succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction at a young age. Among them: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. Each had a major influence on modern rock.

Looking back on these artistes, you’d have to wonder what kind of music they would have made at 30 or even 40.

Some teens talk about the “recreational” consumption of drugs and alcohol as if it’s something that can be stopped as easily as quitting playing soccer or driving to the shopping mall.

Winehouse’s life – and death – is proof that it’s not.

Doing drugs and drinking alcohol is a serious matter.

Many addicts intend to stop, but the addiction is soon out of their control. The substances alter their brain chemistry, causing users to crave cocaine, meth or liquor like they crave food and water.

Still, you may look at Amy Winehouse and say, “That will never happen to me.”

But it can.

Perhaps you’ll start small. You’ll have a beer or two at a party, then it becomes four beers, five and 10. Your grades and family life will be affected.

And throughout all of this, you’ll think that it can’t happen to you – when it will be happening to you already.

You don’t have to be a famous rock star to end up dead from substance abuse. As many as 5,000 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related circumstances every year, according to the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Recent MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) done by California researchers on teens who drank showed less brain activity. Drinking alcohol seriously affected young drinkers’ ability to concentrate, remember facts, play sports and even use a road map.

How many have to die young before people realise that indulgence in drugs and excessive alcohol consumption just isn’t worth it?

How many more talented future singers, engineers, architects and athletes are going to be permanently harmed by drugs and alcohol?

How many more times are people going to have to wonder what might have been?

Will people wonder this about you? – CNS