- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

LONDON — Amy Winehouse drank herself to death.

The soul diva who had Grammy-winning songs and fans around the world died with empty vodka bottles in her room and lethal amounts of alcohol in her blood - more than five times the British drunken-driving limit, a British coroner ruled Wednesday.

Coroner Suzanne Greenaway gave a verdict of “death by misadventure,” saying the singer died of accidental alcohol poisoning when she resumed drinking after weeks of abstinence.

“The unintended consequence of such potentially fatal levels [of alcohol] was her sudden and unexpected death,” Ms. Greenaway said.

The 27-year-old singer, who had fought a very public battle with drug and alcohol problems for years, was found dead in bed July 23 at her London home. An initial autopsy proved inconclusive, although it found no traces of illegal drugs in her system or signs of injury.

Pathologist Suhail Baithun told the inquest into the singer’s death that blood and urine samples indicated Winehouse had consumed a “very large quantity of alcohol” prior to her death. The level of alcohol in her blood was 416 milligrams per 100 milliliters, he said - a blood alcohol level of 0.4 percent.

The British and U.S. legal drunk-driving limit is 0.08 percent.

Such levels of alcohol intake could have stopped her breathing and sent her into a coma, Mr. Baithun added.

Doctors say acute alcohol poisoning is usually the result of binge drinking - the human body can only process about one unit of alcohol, or about half a glass of wine, an hour. Having too much alcohol in the body can cause severe dehydration, hypothermia, seizures, breathing problems and a heart attack, among other difficulties.

There is no minimum dose for acute alcohol poisoning, and the condition varies depending on a person’s age, sex, weight, how fast the alcohol is drunk and other factors such as drug use.

Police Detective Inspector Les Newman, who was called after a security guard found Winehouse, said three empty vodka bottles - two large and one small - were found in her bedroom.

Winehouse’s doctor, Dr. Christina Romete, said the singer had resumed drinking in the days before her death. Prior to that, Winehouse had stayed away from drink for most of July, she said, although she had been alternating between abstinence and heavy alcohol use for a long time.

“She’s made tremendous efforts over the years,” Dr. Romete said, adding that alcohol became Winehouse’s main problem after the singer gave up illicit drugs in 2008.

Dr. Romete, who saw Winehouse the night before she died, described the singer as “tipsy” but calm. She said Winehouse had not spoken of suicide, and had talked about her upcoming birthday.

The doctor said Winehouse had been prescribed drugs including the sedative Librium to help her cope with the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, but the coroner said these had played no role in her death.

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