Celebrities are no exception to the dynamics of drug addiction. From an introduction to the party-centric atmosphere brought on by stardom to the constant pressure to creatively perform, many celebrities fall into drug abuse – and subsequent drug addiction. Some cases of drug-involved death also highlight the need for dual diagnosis capacity and medical help in rehabilitation, as many drug deaths can occur from self-medication of untreated physical or psychological issues.
List of Celebrities Killed by Drug Addiction and Overdoses
The following actors, musicians, comedians and entertainers found their lives cut short due to drug addiction. These celebrity overdoses largely stem from long-standing drug addictions, some complicated additionally by alcoholism.
Lenny Bruce — Morphine Overdose
Ground-breaking, boundary-pushing comedian Lenny Bruce died at his Hollywood home. Bruce’s body was found unclothed, with drug paraphernalia strewn around it, including an intravenous needle and a charred bottle cap. The comedian’s controversial death caused a press frenzy, with the official cause of death cited as morphine toxicity due to an unintentional drug overdose.
Judy Garland — Seconal Overdose
The Academy Award-winning actress captivated audiences with her performances, ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Judgement at Nuremberg. Garland overdosed on a heavy dose of barbiturates, with the equivalent of 10 Seconal capsules in her system. Garland also experienced a lengthy struggle with alcohol, further taxing her body. Evidence at the autopsy suggested that Garland had experienced a long-standing, chronic ingestion of drugs, due in large part to the lack of inflamed tissue or residue in her stomach at the time of her death.
Chris Farley — Opiate and Cocaine Overdose
Known for his over-the-top humor, Chris Farley had battled obesity and drug addiction for much of his career. The Saturday Night Live comedian and feature film actor officially died of exceedingly high levels of morphine and cocaine in his system. However, Farley’s autopsy also indicated the presence of marijuana, fluoxetine and antihistamine in his system. The actor-comedian’s organs also showed signs of chronic alcoholism, including an enlarged heart and fatty liver.
Jimi Hendrix – Barbiturate Overdose
The influential guitarist died of an overdose of Vesparax — a potent barbiturate prescribed at the time to his girlfriend for insomnia. The Vesparax Hendrix had ingested was several times the recommended dosage, causing the musician to asphyxiate on his own vomit. Though his attending doctor was successfully charged with malpractice once paramedics arrived and took Hendrix to the hospital, the primary cause of death was barbiturate overdose, and low levels of alcohol were found in the musician’s system.
Kurt Cobain — Heroin and Opiate Involved Suicide
The frontman of revolutionary alternative rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain was embroiled in a near-constant battle with narcotics. Suffering from chronic bronchitis stemming from an untreated abdominal condition, Cobain turned to drugs both as a form of self-medication and escape. Though a brilliant musician and songwriter, Cobain also battled mental illness, and by his nurse’s account, suffered from attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder. Using marijuana at the young age of 13, Cobain’s drug use spanned inhalants, hallucinogens and opiates. Cobain’s heroin use escalated during the late ’80s to alleviate abdominal pain, leading to heavy addiction during the early 1990s, despite unsuccessful attempts at rehabilitation. He made his first suicide attempt by overdosing from a combination of alcohol and rohypnol (also known as “roofies”) in early 1994, eventually followed by his April suicide, where coroners found him dead by self-inflicted gunshot and under the influence of both heroin and Valium at the time.