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Top 10 Celebrity Addicts
When a celebrity enters rehab or is arrested for being intoxicated on drugs or alcohol, it typically makes the news. It is also newsworthy when a celebrity dies from an overdose or complications due to his or her addiction.
Because of the media attention, it sometimes seems like substance abuse is a routine part of celebrity life.
The stereotypical celebrity life includes many facets that cause celebrities to have a high risk of developing an addiction problem. The pressure of fame, the media attention, the long work hours, the busy work schedule, the money, the invitations to parties (that often include easy access to drugs and alcohol), and the stress of maintaining an attractive appearance can trigger negative emotions or other psychological issues that might lead a celebrity to self-medicate. Additionally, many performers experience a “high” during a performance. During the sometimes lengthy periods between jobs, they might miss that high and turn to drugs and alcohol to synthesize the feeling.
Famous Celebrity Addicts
Some celebrities are well known for their wild alcohol or drug induced hijinks and partying, while the public is shocked when the truth is revealed about other stars. The following top 10 celebrity addicts are representative of the diversity found among those with drug and alcohol problems. Some have unfortunately died due to their disease; others have successfully overcome it and have lived many years in recovery. The one thing they have in common beyond being celebrities is that they struggle with alcohol or drug addiction.
Elvis Presley, known fondly as the King of Rock and Roll, made a tremendous impact on the world. People still dress up as him, his music remains popular, and some people still believe he is alive. His death in 1977, officially due to cardiac arrhythmia, was most likely caused by his drug problem, combined with poor diet and lack of exercise. He had 10 drugs in his system when he died. He was also suffering from numerous health complaints at the end of his life, many of which can be attributed to complications from his substance abuse. He started using drugs in the early 1960s, and was addicted and completely reliant upon the drugs by the 1970s. His drugs of choice were barbiturates, although he had tried cocaine and marijuana.
Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994 occurred only a few years after his band Nirvana found success and became known as the “flagship band” of Generation X and Cobain the “spokesman of a generation.” Although he died by self-inflicted gunshot, Cobain’s drug use most likely played a role in his death. He was well known for being addicted to heroin, and died with drugs in his system. He had been in and out of rehab for his problem, and he checked out of a drug rehab facility just days prior to his death. Cobain reportedly struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts, and fame. He also had a family history of mental illness, suicide, and addiction.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Recently, Hollywood had to mourn another early death of a great actor due to addiction: Philip Seymour Hoffman. His death came as a shock, because he had seemed to have recovered from his drug problem. He became addicted to drugs at a young age, but he sought treatment and was sober for over 20 years. Then, he found himself taking prescription medication for pain and became addicted. This time, even after going back to rehab, he was unable to kick his habit. His pain medication addiction led to heroin use, ending with a fatal overdose. His sad story demonstrates how the struggle of overcoming addiction can last for an entire lifetime, with the possibility of relapse remaining even after decades of sobriety.
TNot many people associate Drew Barrymore with drug addiction anymore, but in her youth she was blacklisted in Hollywood as a wild child. Barrymore’s childhood was filled with drugs and alcohol. In her autobiography, she says she was drinking by age 11 and snorting cocaine by age 13. She entered rehab for her addiction for the first time at age 13, and she did another stint at 15. Barrymore came from a family of addicts and was exposed to drugs and alcohol early in life. Luckily, she overcame her addiction early, and by all accounts she is still sober and has turned her life—and her career – around.
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. had a promising early acting career, but his addiction to drugs and alcohol led to him becoming a pariah in Hollywood. He was consistently in trouble with the police, spending a few years in jail, and became the poster boy for the typical drug addict celebrity. Then, he finally found the right motivation and treatment program for his addiction. He is now in recovery and has completely remade himself in Hollywood. People may remember his previous wild days, but his current reputation is more about his success as Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes than being on a party list or serving time in jail. Downey Jr. is very open about his past problems and the difficulty of overcoming addiction.
Russell Brand is another celebrity who is open about his history of drug and alcohol abuse. He has been sober for over a decade, but he still struggles with sobriety. After Amy Winehouse died of a drug overdose, Brand wrote a moving obituary that honestly details the struggle of addiction. He is very vocal about the daily struggle an addict has with not using, including the powerful temptation to once again dull the powerful negative feelings and emotions.
Oscar De La Hoya
The boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya retired in 2009, after winning 10 world titles in 6 divisions. He has admitted to having a drug and alcohol problem, labeling his drugs of choice as cocaine and alcohol. He says that by becoming intoxicated, especially on alcohol, he felt safe. He went through rehab and become sober in 2011, but he relapsed and went into rehab again in 2013.
Lindsay Lohan has been the poster child for celebrity addiction over the past few years. She has gone to rehab six times, and been in the news more for her arrests and jail time than any new work. She had a promising acting career as a child and teenager, but then she found herself in trouble. She says alcohol was her drug of choice, and she found herself addicted to Adderall, which she was prescribed for her Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Her turbulent home life also attributed to her addiction. She is currently sober, after her last time in rehab, which she says finally stuck because she felt it was time to get over everything.
Charlie Sheen makes headlines for being intoxicated and facing jail time, at least as often as for his career. Sheen has a history of substance abuse problems, linked to drinking and use of crack and cocaine, and also has overdosed a few times. In January 2011, Sheen underwent rehab for his addiction to cocaine and other substances, the third time in a year. He made negative remarks about the creator of his hit show, which led to him being fired. He subsequently went into his famous meltdown, which he denies being caused by drugs or alcohol. He has not made any splashes lately for substance abuse. In a recent interview, he says he stays away from “hard drugs” at the moment, but still indulges in alcohol and marijuana.
Keith Richards is famous for his drug use. He embodies the stereotypical rock and roll lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Unlike many celebrities who have battled addiction and substance abuse in their lives, Richards has no regrets and does not believe in rehab. He has spoken publicly about his addiction days, as well as his feelings about rehab, in an autobiography and an interview in Men’s Journal. He says he stays away from the harder drugs like heroin in his old age, and just sticks to wine and marijuana.
It is not just Celebrities
Although the media attention on celebrity addicts might make it seem like celebrities have a higher risk of becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs than non-celebrities, this is not the case. Approximately 23.5 million Americans suffer from substance abuse or addiction. Anyone is at risk of developing an alcohol or drug abuse problem, regardless of gender, age, socioeconomic status, job, ethnicity, or background. Chronic stress, mental health disorders, mismanagement of negative emotions, and a family history of addiction increase a person’s risk of developing a problem.
Addiction Treatment at DTRC
Addiction is treatable, but recovery is a long and difficult process with a high chance of relapse. The best option is to go through an intensive treatment, such as the programs at Drug Treatment and Rehab Centers. We offer state-of-the-art, evidence-based treatment for addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. Our programs utilize a biopsychosocial approach that treats the individual, not the disorder. You can find out more by calling our Admissions team at (415) 366-6922.