Everyone can name at least one celebrity addict they’ve seen in headlines, especially because there have been many famous addicts in recent years.
Whether you’ve read their name attached to a scandal while under the influence or seen that they’re getting treatment or watched them advocate for addiction recovery, it’s no secret that many celebrities get caught up in the whirlwind of addiction.
Many celebrities who have battled drug or alcohol addiction have talked about their experiences openly. Often they cite the pressure of an extraordinarily public life as a contributing factor, as well as acknowledging that genetics and the culture they grew up in have an effect.
Luckily, famous addicts who are willing to share their stories and promote addiction recovery can encourage other addicts not in the spotlight to get the help they need. On the other hand, those celebrities who have suffered death from their addiction can provide a harsh wake up call to anyone unwilling to experience the same fate.
Here are the stories of just some celebrities who have gone through the harrowing challenge of drug and alcohol addiction:
We know him as the King of Rock and Roll, but most people also know that Elvis Presley was a famous addict during his lifetime. Aside from being an outstanding artist and performer, Elvis also served in the US Army from 1958 to 1960.
In his last few years of life, many noticed Elvis’s declining health. He seemed to tire easily, got poor reviews for his work, and had a variety of health problems including both his mental and physical wellbeing. He died suddenly on August 16, 1977 at only 42 years old and was found by his fiancee, Ginger Alden, in his Graceland mansion.
While the official report for Elvis’s death states the cause of “cardiac arrhythmia”, it is now widely known that the toxicology report showed an overwhelming drug content in his body at the time of death. Among several others, the report included codeine, morphine, and diazepam. The combination of the 14 drugs detected would have been lethal and is the likely cause of his tragic death.
Drew Barrymore, who is now 45 years old, has opened up about her teenage addiction candidly. She entered the spotlight at just 7 years old when she was cast in “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial”. She has shared how childhood fame combined with having a tumultuous relationship with her parents led to her beginning to abuse drugs and alcohol as early as a young teenager. Her drug of choice was cocaine, and at 14 her mother sent her to rehab and a mental institution to deal with her addiction and attempted suicides.
Luckily, the treatment was successful and as she moved into adulthood, Barrymore gained more and more distance from her addiction. She says she has no nostalgia for those days and is grateful to have moved on with her life.
Drew Barrymore is a mother herself now, with two young daughters. She has worked on healing her relationship with her own mother and is a great example to many of how to overcome addiction and move forward with positivity.
Robert Downey, Jr.
Perhaps one of the most famous comeback actors from addiction is Robert Downey, Jr., or as most of America knows him, Ironman. The RDJ the public knows today is a man shaped by his own past mistakes, of which he himself has been one of the most outspoken.
RDJ’s drug use began at home at the age of 6, when his father, who was also an addict, let him try marijuana. He has reported that he frequently did drugs with his father as a way to bond with him, which led to his more serious addiction in adulthood.
His first stint in rehab in 1988 unfortunately didn’t help for long. From 1996 to 2001, RDJ was arrested several times for various drug related charges. He spent 6 months in Los Angeles County Jail for missing a scheduled drug test after breaking parole for heroin possession. Downey, Jr. was in and out of rehabilitation centers for nearly 10 years before reaching his own breaking point.
After several years of losing job opportunities to his addiction and behavior, Robert Down, Jr. met his current wife, and it was her ultimatum that encouraged him to overcome his drug abuse for good. In 2003 she told him to make a choice between her and the drug use, and RDJ reportedly threw his drugs in the ocean and started forward on his path of sobriety.
RDJ credits his long term sobriety to a combination of the 12-step recovery program, yoga, meditation, and psychotherapy. His success in managing his addiction led to him being the highest paid actor in the world in 2015. He is now one of the most outspoken famous addicts about his own story. Robert Downey, Jr. has inspired many to make changes in their own lives and work toward a healthier future.
Another famous addict who became a fatal victim to their addiction is Marilyn Monroe. In the 1950s and 1960s Marilyn Monroe was one of the most famous people in the world. Even now she’s one of the most recognizable cultural icons of all time.
Throughout her career, Marilyn Monroe’s 35 films grossed $200 million– equivalent to $2 billion today. She founded her own production company and won a Golden Globe. However, she was also one of the first known victims of the opioid epidemic.
In August 1962, Monroe was found dead in her home at only 36 years old. Her bedside table was littered with a dozen different drugs, including an empty vial of the barbiturate Nembutal. Monroe’s story is a cautionary one for physicians, as all the drugs she frequently used were legally prescribed to her by a variety of doctors.
Unfortunately Marilyn Monroe’s illness went untreated for too long, and she lost her life to addiction and drug abuse.
Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox is an actor who was famously diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991. At the time he was newly married to another actor, Tracy Pollan. Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that slowly strips away your mobility and affects your brain neurons.
In the first years of his diagnosis, Fox used alcohol as a crutch to avoid coping with the severity of his symptoms and the outlook of his life. For about a year after his diagnosis he describes hiding bottles around the house from his wife. He said his alcoholism was a way to isolate himself from his family and from his health.
Fortunately, it’s the support and love from his wife that helped him turn his life around. In 1992 his addiction had gotten bad enough that he couldn’t hide it anymore, and Pollan and their young son found him passed out and hungover.
Fox made the decision himself that he didn’t want a life of addiction for himself anymore. He immediately sought a therapist and worked out the underlying issues related to his Parkinson’s diagnosis that had driven him to drink in the first place.
Fox has now been sober over 25 years. While his disease has progressed, he’s remained optimistic about his life. This famous addict turned his addiction around and now runs the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which is one of the leading non-profit organizations raising money for Parkinson’s research.
Demi Lovato is a famous addict who has been extremely transparent about her struggle with addiction in recent years. Her career started at age 5 and grew steadily until she was one of the most recognized teenage Disney channel stars.
She recalls growing up in a home where drugs and alcohol were regularly abused by her father, who ultimately chose his addiction over his family. However, Lovato was able to avoid her own struggle with substance abuse until she was a teenager. She recalls being bullied in school and how those experiences led to an eating disorder and partying to try to fit in.
Her addiction ramped up at age 17 when she tried cocaine for the first time. Throughout the next 5 years she spent time in several rehab centers, only to immediately turn to drugs when she was released. During this time she got diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which she says explains her extreme ups and downs.
Lovato talked extensively about her 5 years of sobriety in a 2017 documentary about her life. Only a few months after she celebrated 6 years sober she shared with the world that she’d relapsed again.
Currently, Lovato is sober and recovering from a 2018 overdose. She has a new documentary coming soon with details about her journey in the last few years.
Recovery is Possible at Ardu Recovery Center
At Ardu Recovery Center, we know that long term recovery is in reach. Using a combination of holistic and medical interventions, we can help you or a loved one who is seeking help from drug or alcohol addiction.
Visit our website to learn more about our diagnostic program and our rehabilitation center located in Provo, UT.