White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske is using Whitney Houston's death Saturday as an opportunity to warn of the dangers of substance abuse.
It is not yet known whether Houston's death was drug related, though the singer has acknowledged past struggles with substance abuse. Kerlikowske pointed specifically to Houston's use of prescription drugs.
"Her death is absolutely tragic and this brings attention to the problem that she had talked about in the past and that certainly is prescription drugs," Kerlikowske told Hotsheet. "It effects a huge number of people in this country and has driven deaths to very very high numbers - well over 15,000."Complete Coverage: Whitney Houston - Death of a pop diva Whitney Houston's body to be taken home to N.J. Watch: Whitney's final performance Whitney Houston's daughter rushed to hospital
Kerlikowske said one of the key parts of the Obama administration's strategy to combat drug abuse is to "remove the stigma...and to help people understand you can recover."
"I think it is what we might call a teachable moment when someone passes - particularly as someone as highly thought of and such an incredible performer as Whitney Houston," Kerlikowske said. "We can use this as a moment to help people understand. There are millions of Americans that are suffering from this problem...so we can use this as a chance to move forward."
He added that Houston's death is an opportunity to "help people understand" that reality.
Watch Kerlikowske's entire interview with CBS News' Christine Delargy in the video above.