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25 Celebrities Lost to Addiction

After the recent death of famed singer Whitney Houston, many conversations about the long and quickly growing list of famous actors, singers and artists that came to a premature death during their struggles with addiction.

Inspired by a recent photo essay from USA Today, we have complied a list of our own in hopes of remembering those who lost their battle early, and to inspire help for those who are still with us.

Whitney Houston

On February 11, 2012, Houston was found dead at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, submerged in the bathtub.  The cause of death was not immediately known.  It was later ruled by the coroner to have been “accidental drowning”.

Beverly Hills paramedics arrived at approximately 3:30 p.m. and found the singer unresponsive and performed CPR.

On March 22, 2012, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office reported the cause of Houston’s death was drowning and the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use”.

The office stated the amount of cocaine found in Houston’s body indicates she used the substance shortly before her death.

Toxicology results revealed additional drugs in her system: Benadryl, Xanax, marijuana and Flexiril.The manner of death was listed as an “accident”.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

On February 10, 1986, Basquiat appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a feature entitled “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist”.

He was a successful artist in this period, but his growing heroin addiction began to interfere with his personal relationships.
When Andy Warhol died on February 22, 1987, Basquiat became increasingly isolated, and his heroin addiction and depression grew more severe.

Despite an attempt at sobriety during a trip to Maui, Hawaii, Basquiat died on August 12, 1988, of a heroin overdose at his art studio in Great Jones Street in New York City’s NoHo neighborhood. He was 27.

John Belushi

n March 5, 1982, Bill Wallace found Belushi dead in his room, Bungalow #3 at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, California.

The cause of death was a speed-ball; the combined injection of cocaine and heroin.

On the night of his death, he was visited separately by friends Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, each of whom left the premises, leaving Belushi in the company of assorted others, including Catherine Evelyn Smith.

His death was investigated by forensic pathologist Dr. Ryan Norris among others, and while the findings were disputed, it was officially ruled a drug-related accident..

Lenny Bruce

On August 3, 1966, Bruce was found dead in the bathroom of his Hollywood Hills home at 8825 W. Hollywood Blvd.

The official photo, taken at the scene, showed Bruce lying naked on the floor, a syringe and burned bottle cap nearby, along with various other narcotics paraphernalia.

According to legend a policeman at the scene said, “There is nothing sadder than an aging hipster” which itself possibly was one of Lenny Bruce’s lines.

Record producer Phil Spector, a friend of Bruce’s, bought the negatives of the photographs to keep them from the press. The official cause of death was “acute morphine poisoning caused by an accidental overdose.”

Truman Capote

In the late 1970s, Capote was in and out of rehab clinics, and news of his various breakdowns frequently reached the public.

In 1978, talk show host Stanley Siegal did a live on-air interview with Capote, who, in an extraordinarily intoxicated state, confessed that he might kill himself.

Capote died in Los Angeles on August 25, 1984, aged 59 from liver cancer.

According to the coroner’s report the cause of death was “liver disease complicated by phlebitis and multiple drug intoxication”.

He died at the home of his old friend Joanne Carson, ex-wife of late-night TV host Johnny Carson, on whose program Capote had been a frequent guest.

John Cassavetes

John Nicholas Cassavetes was an American actor, screenwriter and filmmaker.

He acted in many Hollywood films, notably Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Dirty Dozen (1967). Cassevetes was also a pioneer of American independent film by writing and directing over a dozen movies, which he financed in part with his Hollywood paychecks, and which pioneered the use of improvisation and a realistic cinéma vérité style.

John was also a known alcoholic.  He died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1989 at the age of 59.

Vic Chesnutt

James Victor “Vic” Chesnutt was an American singer-songwriter from Athens, Georgia.

His first album, Little, was released in 1990, but his breakthrough to commercial success didn’t come until 1996 with the release of Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation.

On December 25, 2009, Chesnutt died from an overdose of muscle relaxants that had left him in a coma in an Athens hospital.

In the 2009 interview with Terry Gross, while discussing the song “Flirted with You All My Life”, he said, “You know, I’ve attempted suicide three or four times. It didn’t take.”

Kurt Cobain

On April 8, 1994, Cobain’s body was discovered at his Lake Washington home by an electrician who had arrived to install a security system.

Apart from a minor amount of blood coming out of Cobain’s ear, the electrician reported seeing no visible signs of trauma, and initially believed that Cobain was asleep until he saw the shotgun pointing at his chin. A suicide note was found, addressed to Cobain’s childhood imaginary friend “Boddah”, that said, paraphrasing, “I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music, along with really writing . . . for too many years now”.

A high concentration of heroin and traces of diazepam were also found in his body.

Cobain’s body had been lying there for days; the coroner’s report estimated Cobain to have died on April 5, 1994.

Chris Farley

By early 1997, a visible decline in Farley’s health was frequently noted in the press.

Following his final guest appearance on SNL on October 25, 1997, his hoarse voice, continual perspiration and flushed skin were the subject of public scrutiny.

In the final years of his life, Farley had sought treatment for obesity and drug abuse on seventeen separate occasions.

On December 18, 1997, Farley was found dead by his younger brother John in his apartment in the John Hancock Center in Chicago.

An autopsy later revealed that Farley had died of a drug overdose (morphine and cocaine) early that morning.

Advanced atherosclerosis was cited as a “significant contributing factor”.

Farley’s death is often compared to his SNL idol John Belushi, who also died at age 33 of an accidental drug overdose consisting of cocaine and morphine.

Judy Garland

On June 22, 1969, Garland was found dead by Deans in the bathroom of their rented house in Chelsea, London.

At the subsequent inquest, coroner Gavin Thursdon stated that the cause of death was “an incautious self-overdosage” of barbiturates; her blood contained the equivalent of ten 1.5-grain Seconal capsules.

Thursdon stressed that the overdose had been unintentional and that there was no evidence to suggest she had committed suicide.

Her autopsy showed that there was no inflammation of her stomach lining and no drug residue there, which indicated that the drug had been ingested over a long period of time, rather than in one dose.

Her death certificate stated that her death had been “accidental”.

Even so, a British specialist who had attended her said she had been living on borrowed time due to cirrhosis of the liver.

She had turned 47 just 12 days prior to her death. Her Wizard of Oz costar Ray Bolger commented at her funeral, “She just plain wore out.”

Jimi Hendrix

Early on September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix died in London.

He had spent the latter part of the previous evening at a party and was picked up at close to 3:00 by girlfriend Monika Dannemann and driven to her flat at the Samarkand Hotel, 22 Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill.

From autopsy data and statements by friends about the evening of September 17, it has been estimated that he died sometime after 3:00, possibly before 4:00, but also possibly later, though no estimate was made at the autopsy, or inquest.

Dannemann claimed in her original testimony that after they returned to her lodgings the evening before, Hendrix, unknown to her, had taken nine of her prescribed Vesparax sleeping pills.

The normal medical dose was a half to one tablet as stated in the literature, but Hendrix was unfamiliar with this very strong Belgian brand.

According to surgeon John Bannister, the doctor who initially attended to him, Hendrix had asphyxiated in his own vomit, mainly red wine which had filled his airways.

Billie Holiday

In early 1959 Billie found out that she had cirrhosis of the liver.

The doctor told her to stop drinking, which she did for a short time, but soon returned to heavy drinking.

By May she had lost twenty pounds. Friends Leonard Feather, Joe Glaser, and Allan Morrison tried to get her to check into a hospital, but she put them off.
On May 31, 1959, Holiday was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York suffering from liver and heart disease.

She was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying, and her hospital room was raided by authorities.

Police officers were stationed at the door to her room. Holiday remained under police guard at the hospital until she died from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959.

In the final years of her life, she had been progressively swindled out of her earnings, and she died with $0.70 in the bank and $750 (a tabloid fee) on her person.

Michael Jackson

While preparing for his concert series titled This Is It, Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication on June 25, 2009, after suffering from cardiac arrest.

Attempts at resuscitating him by Conrad Murray, his personal physician, were unsuccessful.

Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics received a 911 call at 12:22, arriving three minutes later at Jackson’s location.

He was reportedly not breathing and CPR was performed.  Resuscitation efforts continued en route to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and for more than an hour after arriving there at 1:13.

He was pronounced dead at 2:26 local time.

Janis Joplin

On Sunday October 4, 1970, producer Paul A.

Rothchild became concerned when Joplin failed to show up at Sunset Sound Recorders for a recording session. Full Tilt Boogie’s road manager, John Cooke, drove to the Landmark Hotel.

He saw Joplin’s psychedelically painted Porsche 356C Cabriolet in the parking lot.

Upon entering her room, he found her dead on the floor beside her bed. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.

Cooke believes that Joplin had accidentally been given heroin which was much more potent than normal, as several of her dealer’s other customers also overdosed that week.

Peggy Caserta and Seth Morgan had both stood Joplin up the Friday immediately prior to her death, October 2, and according to the book Going Down With Janis, Joplin was saddened that neither of her friends visited her at the Landmark Motor Hotel as they had promised to.

Jack Kerouac

Jean-Louis “Jack” Kerouac was an American novelist and poet.

He is considered a literary iconoclast and pioneer of the Beat Generation.

Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel.

His death, at the age of 47, was determined to be due to an internal hemorrhage (bleeding esophageal varices) caused by cirrhosis, the result of a lifetime of heavy drinking, along with complications from an untreated hernia and a bar fight he had been involved in weeks prior to his demise.

Heath Ledger

Heath Andrew Ledger was an Australian television and film actor.

After performing roles in Australian television and film during the 1990s, Ledger left his homeland for the United States in 1998 to develop his film career.

On 22 January 2008, Ledger was found unconscious in his bed by his housekeeper and his masseuse in his fourth-floor apartment in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.

“Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine.”

Keith Moon

Moon took an excessive dose of clomethiazole, a sedative he had been prescribed to alleviate his alcohol withdrawal symptoms as he tried to dry out on his own at home; he was desperate to get clean, but was terrified of another stay in the psychiatric hospital for in-patient detoxification.

The pills were also prescribed by a new doctor who was unaware of Moon’s recklessly impulsive nature and long history of prescription sedative abuse.

He had given Moon a full bottle of 100 pills, and instructed him to take one whenever he felt a craving for alcohol (but not more than 3 per day).

The police determined there were 32 pills in his system, with the digestion of 6 being sufficient to cause his death, and the other 26 of which were still undissolved when he died

Jim Morrison

Morrison died on July 3, 1971 at age 27.

In the official account of his death, he was found in a Paris apartment bathtub.

Pursuant to French law, no autopsy was performed because the medical examiner stated that there was no evidence of foul play. The absence of an official autopsy has left many questions regarding Morrison’s cause of death.
In Wonderland Avenue, Danny Sugerman discussed his encounter with Pam Courson after she returned to the United States. According to Sugerman’s account, Courson stated that Morrison had died of a heroin overdose, having insufflated what he believed to be cocaine.

Marilyn Monroe

On August 5, 1962, LAPD police sergeant Jack Clemmons received a call at 4:25 am from Dr. Ralph Greenson, Monroe’s psychiatrist, proclaiming that Monroe was found dead at her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California.  She was 36 years old.

At the subsequent autopsy, eight milligram per cent of Chloral hydrate and 4.5 milligram percent of Nembutal were found in her system, and Dr. Thomas Noguchi of the Los Angeles County Coroners office recorded cause of death as “acute barbiturate poisoning,” resulting from a “probable suicide.”

River Phoenix

On October 30, 1993, Phoenix went to the bathroom to take drugs with various friends and dealers.

It is frequently reported that an acquaintance or dealer offered him Persian Brown (a combination of heroin and methamphetamine, which is commonly snorted); however, his autopsy report revealed lethal doses of cocaine and morphine (which is what heroin metabolizes into and shows up as in the blood).

His blood also contained diazepam, ephedrine and marijuana.

Soon after consuming a combination of heroin and cocaine he became ill, and somebody reportedly gave him diazepam, as it is commonly used to counter-act the effects of a stimulant overdose.

However, because he had consumed heroin the treatment is thought to have been counter productive, as diazepam further enhances the effects of heroin.

During the early morning hours of October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed outside the club from a drug overdose of heroin and cocaine (known as a speedball) further amplified by the administration of diazepam.

Elvis Presley

The book Elvis: What Happened?, co-written by the three bodyguards fired the previous year, was published on August 1.

It was the first exposé to detail Presley’s years of drug misuse. He was devastated by the book and tried unsuccessfully to halt its release by offering money to the publishers.

By this point, he suffered from multiple ailments: glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon, each aggravated—and possibly caused—by drug abuse.
Presley was scheduled to fly out of Memphis on the evening of August 16, 1977, to begin another tour.

That afternoon, Alden discovered him unresponsive on his bathroom floor. Attempts to revive him failed, and death was officially pronounced at 3:30 pm at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

Anna Nicole Smith

Ultimately her death was ruled an accidental drug overdose of the sedative chloral hydrate that became increasingly lethal when combined with other prescription drugs in her system, specifically four benzodiazepines:

Klonopin (Clonazepam)

Ativan (Lorazepam)

Serax (Oxazepam)

Valium (Diazepam)

Furthermore, she had taken Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) and Topamax (Topiramate), an anticonvulsant AMPA/Kainate antagonist, which likely contributed to the sedative effect of chloral hydrate and the benzodiazepines.

Although the individual levels of any of the benzodiazepines in her system would not have been sufficient to cause death, their combination with a high dose of chloral hydrate led to her overdose. The autopsy report indicates that chloral hydrate was the “toxic/lethal” drug, but it is difficult to know if chloral hydrate ingestion alone would have killed her

Ike Turner

On December 10, 2007, Ike told his personal assistant that he believed he was dying, and would not make it to Christmas.

Turner died on December 12, 2007, at 76 years of age, at his home in California.

He was found dying by his ex-wife Ann Thomas.

On January 16, 2008, it was reported by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office that Turner had died from a cocaine overdose. “The cause of death for Ike Turner is cocaine toxicity with other significant conditions, such as hypertensive cardiovascular disease and pulmonary emphysema,” Supervising Medical Examiner Investigator Paul Parker told CNN.

Sid Vicious

On the evening of February 1, 1979, a small gathering to celebrate Vicious having made bail was held at the New York apartment of his new girlfriend, Michele Robinson.

Vicious was clean; having been on a detoxification methadone programme, he detoxed from heroin during his time at Rikers Island.

However, at the dinner gathering, his mother (who was once a registered addict herself) had some heroin delivered, against the wishes of Sid’s girlfriend.

Vicious overdosed at midnight but everyone who was there that night worked together to get him up and walking around in order to revive him.

Sid and Michele Robinson went to bed together. Vicious was discovered dead late the next morning.

Amy Winehouse

On July 23rd, 2011 at ge 27, Amy was found dead in her apartment by her bodyguard.

At 3:54pm BST on 23 July 2011, two ambulances were called to Winehouse’s home in Camden, London. Winehouse was pronounced dead at the scene. Shortly afterwards, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that she had died. After her death was announced, media and camera crews appeared, as crowds gathered near Winehouse’s residence to pay their respects. Forensic investigators entered the flat as police cordoned off the street outside. Police recovered one small and two large bottles of vodka from her room.
A coroner’s inquest reached a verdict of misadventure. The report released on 26 October 2011 explained that Winehouse’s blood alcohol content was 416 mg per decilitre at the time of her death, more than five times the legal drink-drive limit. According to the coroner, “The unintended consequences of such potentially fatal levels was her sudden death.”

This list often young, and always talented people should serve as a reminder to anybody out there who has an addicted loved one.  Today can be the day that you save their life.

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