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Famous Drug Addicts

Article Summary

Addiction is a severe, chronic illness that can affect anyone, even those who seem to have everything, such as celebrities. Wealth, coupled with the pressures that come with fame, can often lead people down a path of drug and alcohol abuse, which can ruin careers and sometimes lead to death.1

That said, some famous people addicted to drugs do seek treatment and find sobriety. Examples of both tragedy and recovery are below.

Charlie Sheen

Among other films and shows, Charlie Sheen starred in Platoon, Wall Street, and the hit sitcom Two and a Half Men. But he also has a history of out-of-control drug use and reckless behavior.

In 2010, Sheen was arrested after going on a cocaine- and alcohol-fueled bender that resulted in him causing $7,000 worth of damages to a hotel suite. In 2011, Sheen’s drug use and disruptive behavior got him fired from Two and a Half Men.

Sheen revealed in November 2015 that he was diagnosed with HIV. After this, he decided to leave behind his former life and start a new, healthier journey. He entered rehab later that year and now says he is “focused,” “sober,” and “hopeful” about his future.2,3


Stephen Glover, more commonly known as “Steve-O,” is famous for his role in the hit American television series Jackass. However, at the height of his career, Steve-O was using ketamine, PCP, nitrous, and alcohol, along with several other drugs. He says that he was once so desperate to get high he snorted cocaine that had someone else’s blood mixed in with it.

He finally bottomed out when he sent an email to his friends and family saying that he was ready to die. His friends, including his co-star of Jackass Johnny Knoxville, intervened and took Steve-O to the hospital. After this, he finally got sober and, as of 2016, has remained so. He meditates regularly, has become vegan, focuses on sobriety, and is back to doing comedy.4

Eric Clapton

English singer-songwriter and guitarist Eric Clapton is considered one of the greatest rock ‘n roll musicians of all time. With hits that include “Layla,” “Tears in Heaven,” and “Crossroads,” he has won 17 Grammy Awards, an Order of the British Empire (CBE), and membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Yet despite his success, Clapton had serious struggles with substance abuse. In the early 1970s, Clapton slipped into a 20-year alcohol and heroin addiction that cost him $16,000 a week. In 1991, Clapton’s four-year-old son Conor died after falling from a New York high-rise. This event was a wake-up call that led to his sobriety.

His movie, Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, which chronicles his struggles and addiction, is due to be released in late 2017.5

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Rick James

Rick James was a popular musician in the 1970s and 1980s. He is best known for his hit songs “Mary Jane” and “Super Freak.” However, his career disintegrated into a whirlwind of drug use and violence.

By the 1990s, he was seriously abusing cocaine. He was eventually convicted of sexual assault and served 2 years in prison. He was also forced to pay $2 million in a civil suit.

After being released in 1997, James suffered a minor stroke. He died of cardiac and pulmonary failure at the age of 56 in 2004. According to the coroner’s report, James had 9 different drugs in his system, including Vicodin, Valium, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Although the death was not ruled an overdose, the coroner said that the drugs might have led to the heart failure.6,7

Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore was born into a legendary acting family. Her father was a highly regarded actor, as were her grandparents and great-grandparents. At age 7, Barrymore starred in E.T. and seemingly had her career path laid out for her.

Unfortunately, drugs entered Barrymore’s life at an early age. By age 9, she had already had her first alcoholic drink. By age 10, she smoked marijuana on a regular basis. By age 12, she says she had tried cocaine. By the time she was 13, she had already had 2 different rehab stays.

After rehab, she embarked on the road to recovery, founding her own production company in 1995 and starring in several leading roles, including The Wedding Singer. Now, Barrymore is a success at the box office, having starred in many hits, including Charlie’s Angels and Scream. She documented her recovery in her memoir, Little Girl Lost.8,9

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe overcame a difficult childhood to become one of the most famous celebrities of all time.

Yet sadly, by the time she had made her last 2 films, she was suffering from a variety of mental health and substance abuse problems. Biographers speculate that she struggled with depression and possibly bipolar disorder.

Twentieth Century Fox fired her in 1962 for “unjustifiable absences” after being too ill to work. Monroe later became depressed and struggled with insomnia. At some point around this time, she began abusing prescription sedatives along with other prescription drugs.

Unfortunately, she died at the age of 36 from a drug overdose. She was found with a plethora of prescription opiates, tranquilizers, sedatives, and sleeping pills on her bedside table. She had also been abusing barbiturates, amphetamines, and alcohol.10,11

Because of her drug use, the talented actress died entirely too young.


Born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, the star known as Eminem rose to fame to become one of the best-selling rappers of the 21st century.

Unfortunately, Eminem also struggled with drug addiction throughout his career. During the 2000s, Eminem became addicted to prescription painkillers and sleeping pills, and also struggled with alcoholism. In 2007, he nearly died from an overdose. He was taken to the hospital and there began his recovery.

By 2008, he had overcome his addiction. In 2010, he released an album that chronicled his struggle with addiction and rehab.12

Elvis Presley

Rock ‘n roll star Elvis Presley was one of the most important cultural icons in history. During the 1950s, Presley was an idol and role model for many teens. He was religious, never drank, and publicly criticized recreational drugs.

However, during the last years of his life, the star heavily abused substances, especially amphetamines and other prescription drugs. In 1977, Presley was discovered dead at Graceland, his famous mansion. His death was initially attributed to congestive heart failure, but later reports indicated that Presley had been prescribed 5,300 pills in the months before he died. That drug abuse likely played a part in his death.13

Britney Spears

Former Disney star Britney Spears became one of the most successful singers in pop music history. She experienced success in the late ’90s, but struggled with personal problems in the following decade. She displayed increasingly erratic behavior, and in 2006, she got divorced and later lost custody of her children.

Her former manager said that the star was hooked on prescription drugs during that time and took as many as 30 a day. Spears was frequently in and out of mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities.

In 2008, her father went to court and obtained control over her medical, professional, and personal matters. Since then, Spears has “settled down” and made a comeback.14,15

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman was an accomplished actor and played a variety of memorable roles, including in movies such as Capote, Boogie Nights, Charlie Wilson’s War, and others.

Unfortunately, he struggled with drug addiction for years, and in 2014, that addiction claimed his life. He was found dead at the age of 46 with a syringe in his arm and envelopes of heroin nearby. He was taking heroin, amphetamine, benzodiazepines, and cocaine at the time and died of acute mixed drug intoxication.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, said that someone who takes such drug mixtures may not feel their effects. But the drugs still suppress the respiratory system and can lead to death.16,17

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