28 Celebrities Who Overdosed: Their Tragic Stories

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Last updated on January 6th, 2024 at 09:13 pm

Drug abuse has likely been a part of celebrity culture since the very first celebrity. It seems like the more fame and adulation you have, the more likely you are to search for higher and higher highs. 

In this article, we’ll explore the sad tales of 30 celebrities who overdosed. 

28 Celebrities Who Overdosed

1. Michael Jackson

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Exact date unknown – circa 1990 – Michael Jackson arriving at a celebrity event. Image from Shutterstock.

First on our list of celebrities who overdosed is the king of pop himself, Michael Jackson. After his death, controversies surrounded the singer’s challenges with addiction. Michael Jackson‘s death was attributed to acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication, and his doctor was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for administering the drugs that led to his death.

Related: How Did Michael Jackson Die?

2. Anna Nicole-Smith

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Anna Nicole Smith also fell prey to the danger that drug misuse brings. The famous American model and television personality passed away on February 8, 2007, due to overdosing on at least nine prescription drugs.

Related: Singers You Didn’t Know Had Kids

3. Lisa Robin Kelly

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No licensable image available. Image from Shutterstock.

Lisa Robin Kelly also met a terrible fate due to drug abuse. The former star of That 70s Show voluntarily checked into a rehab facility in August 2013. However, just days later, the singer was declared dead, and reports have revealed that she accidentally died of multiple drug intoxication (polydrug overdose).

Related: 24 Famous Musicians Who Went Bankrupt

4. Cory Monteith

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Cory Monteith, who made his mark on the hit TV musical comedy Glee, sadly makes an appearance on our list of celebrities who overdosed. The singer had been candid about struggling with addiction ever since he was a teenager. The singer had been candid about struggling with addiction ever since he was a teenager

Unfortunately, just months after taking a break from Glee to go to rehab, Monteith died from a heroin and alcohol overdose.

Related: All the Men Taylor Swift Has Dated

5. Marilyn Monroe

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Beneath the glitz and glamor of the effervescent and beloved American actress Marilyn Monroe was a silent battle with drugs and depression. The Hollywood star was said to be dependent on amphetamines, barbiturates, and alcohol and also used them as a means to cope with mental health problems.

Tragically, after suffering throughout her career, she ended her life on the evening of August 4, 1962. Her death was ruled as a probable suicide due to a drug overdose.

Related: 24 Celebrities Who Were Drug Addicts

6. Judy Garland

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A publicity still of Judy Garland from MGM used in conjunction with promotion of The Harvey Girls (1946). Image is in the Public Domain.

Many people knew that legendary actress Judy Garland was battling addiction before her untimely death on June 22, 1969. The critically acclaimed star has used drugs even as a child as a means to cope with the pressure and the stress of being a performer. 

Sadly, at the age of 47, she was found lifeless by her husband, and the coroner ruled the actress’ cause of death to be a self-administered accidental overdose of barbiturates.

Related: How Did Judy Garland Die?

7. Heath Ledger

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Yet another one of many celebrities who overdosed is the exceptional actor Heath Ledger. His life was tragically cut short in January 2008 after overdosing on multiple prescription drugs, including Oxycontin, Valium, and Xanax.

8. Amy Winehouse

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Arguably one of the most heart-wrenching cases on our list of celebrities who overdosed is the Grammy winner Amy Winehouse. It’s a well-known fact that the singer had troubles with drugs and alcoholism throughout her career, and tragically, this eventually caught up to the singer. 

Winehouse was found dead in July 2011 due to alcohol intoxication. Her blood alcohol level was reportedly more than five times over the legal limit.

Related: 22 Singers Who Died Too Soon

9. Chris Farley

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Chris Farley, who was known for his loud, energetic comedy and big lifestyle, is next on our list of celebrities who overdosed. He had spent years struggling with drug addiction before he died. 

Two years before he met his untimely death, he made at least 17 trips to different treatment programs and attempted countless recovery techniques.

Unfortunately, he consistently relapsed, and on December 18, 1997, he met his tragic fate and died with traces of cocaine, morphine, and marijuana in his system.

Related: 27 Musicians Who Overdosed

10. Janis Joplin

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The Queen of Rock, Janis Lyn Joplin, was one of her era’s most successful and critically acclaimed rock performers. However, her extraordinary talent was tragically eclipsed by the dangerous grip of drug addiction. 

After releasing three iconic albums that shaped the future generation of rock and roll, the superstar met her untimely demise due to a fatal heroin overdose.

Related: What is the 27 Club?

11. Prince

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MIAMI – FEB 4: Prince performs during half-time for Super Bowl XLI between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts at Dolphin Stadium on February 4, 2007 in Miami. Image from Shutterstock.

The death of music legend Prince was a poignant reminder that opioid addiction and overdose know no boundaries and affect individuals from all walks of life, no matter what their socioeconomic status is. 

Prince was found unresponsive in an elevator at his estate in April 2021. Reports revealed that he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic drug that is 50 times more powerful than regular heroin.

Related: How Did Prince Die?

12. Tom Petty 

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Heartland rock icon Tom Petty also lands on our list of celebrities who overdosed. The “Free Fallin'” singer suffered a multisystem organ failure due to mixed drug toxicity. 

According to the autopsy, the drugs listed included alprazolam, despropionyl fentanyl, acetyl fentanyl, temazepam, citalopram, fentanyl, and oxycodone.

Related: How Did Tom Petty Die?

13. River Phoenix

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River Phoenix (August 23, 1970 – October 31, 1993) at the 61st Academy Awards, March 29, 1989 – Governor’s Ball. Scanned from the original 35MM film negative. Photo by Alan Light.

Known for starring in the coming-of-age film Stand by Me (1986), River Phoenix was poised to be one of the biggest actors of the 80s and 90s. However, his promising career was abruptly cut short by the devastating grip of drug addiction. 

He was set to star in the highly anticipated film Interview with the Vampire, but in the early hours of Halloween 1993, he was discovered lifeless.

Phoenix’s death was a result of drug intoxication. The actor overdosed on speedball, a lethal mixture of cocaine and heroin.

Related: 25 Singers Who Died of a Drug Overdose

14. Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Regarded as one of the most versatile stage and film actors of our generation, Philip Seymour Hoffman was yet another individual who fell victim to the perils of drug addiction. He died from an accidental drug overdose involving a potent cocktail of drugs. 

Authorities reported that he was found at his home, unresponsive, with the syringe of drugs still in his arm. 

Related: 25 Celebrities Who Disappeared from the Spotlight

15. Jim Morrison

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The death of Jim Morrison has always fueled controversy and conspiracy theories because of the mystery surrounding it. 

On July 3, 1971, the lead vocalist of The Doors was found dead in his Paris apartment. While the absence of an autopsy has left the cause of Morrison’s death evasive, some individuals close to Morrison during that time have disclosed that he likely died of a heroin overdose.

Related: 28 Most Hated Bands of All Time

16. John Belushi

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Next on our list of celebrities who overdosed is one of the OG members of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, Blues Brother John Adam Belushi. The American Comedian met a terrible fate in 1982 when a drug dealer injected him with a mixture of heroin and cocaine. As a result, Belushi tragically passed away due to drug intoxication at the young age of 33.

Related: 30 Best Blues Songs

17. Donyale Luna 

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The ethereal Donyale Luna, the first black supermodel, also met a sorrowful fate. 

The first African-American model to appear on the cover of the British edition of Vogue suffered an accidental heroin overdose in a clinic in Rome. 

Despite her struggles and untimely death, her influence remains indisputable. Her efforts not only impacted the fashion industry but also the black community.

18. Len Bias

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Another victim of drugs who died too soon was the American basketball player Len Bias. A promising career awaited Bias as the Boston Celtics chose him in the 1986 draft. 

But just two days later, he met an untimely end. The young star died from cardiac arrhythmia resulting from a cocaine overdose.

19. Whitney Houston

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Milan, Italy – April 21, 2022: Whitney Houston portraits on postage stamp. Image from Shutterstock.

Highly acclaimed American actress and singer Whitney Houston is also one of the celebrities who overdosed. Houston had grappled with drug use and addiction, going in and out of rehab throughout her career. 

Unfortunately, the superstar’s life was cut short after drowning in a Beverly Hilton Hotel bathtub, with cocaine as one of the primary suspects.

Related: How Did Whitney Houston Die?

20. Joey Kovar

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The world was shocked by the news of the death of Joey Kovar, a renowned model and reality TV star. Kovar had famously battled addiction while filming MTV’s The Real World, leaving the show at one point to seek treatment in rehab. 

Just when the people around him thought he was getting better, Kovak was found dead at a friend’s house on August 17, 2012. According to a report from TMZ, Kovar passed away due to “opiate intoxication.”

21. Elvis Presley

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Elvis Presley‘s issues with drug addiction have been known to the public for years. The legendary singer was notorious for his opiate abuse, a habit that not only provided relief from pain but also inflicted severe constipation. 

Before he knew it, his addiction finally caught up with him, leading to a very untimely death and making him a part of our list of celebrities who overdosed.

The renowned King of Rock and Roll was found dead on his bathroom floor on August 16, 1977, with traces of over 14 drugs in his system.

Related: How Did Elvis Presley Die?

22. Jimi Hendrix

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Jimi Hendrix was one of the biggest legends of 20th-century music, but the menacing clasp of drug addiction shadowed his success.

The renowned guitarist was found dead on September 18, 1970. Reports have revealed that the cause of Jimi Hendrix‘s death was inhalation of his own vomit due to barbiturate intoxication.

Related: How Did Jimi Hendrix Die?

23. Chet Baker

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Yet another celebrity who serves as a cautionary tale against the dangers of drug addiction is Chet Baker. 

The jazz musician had trouble with drugs from the time he emerged in the Pacific jazz scene, even facing multiple arrests for drug possession and displaying erratic behavior fueled by substance abuse. 

On May 13, 1988, Bake was found dead after having fallen from the second-story window in his hotel in Hendrik, Amsterdam. The likely cause? Heroin and cocaine, both of which were discovered in his room and his system at the time of his death.

Related: 21Best Jazz Songs

24. Elisa Bridges

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American actress and model Elisa Bridges, more famously known for being a Playboy Playmate, is also among the celebrities who fell victim to an overdose. 

Bridges tragically passed away on February 7, 2007, as a result of an accidental overdose involving heroin, methamphetamine, and meperidine.

25. Brenda Fassie

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Image by Thambalwam23 on Wikimedia Commons.

To say Brenda Fassie was ahead of her time is an understatement. The South African singer fearlessly lived as an openly lesbian black woman as early as 2003 and was unapologetically unashamed of her political and social views. 

This is why her loss was significant when she succumbed to her battle against addiction, meeting an untimely death on May 9, 2004, caused by a heart attack induced by cocaine.

26. Phyllis Hyman

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Image by Nichn2mil on Wikimedia Commons.

Another celebrity who succumbed to the dangers of drugs is the American singer, songwriter, and actress Phyllis Hyman. The singer reportedly had bipolar disorder and often self-medicated through the use of drugs and alcohol. 

She tragically passed away by suicide, succumbing to an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol on June 30, 1995, a mere six days before her upcoming birthday.

27. Dinah Washington

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What’s sad about some of the celebrities on the list is that they were still at the peak of their careers before their untimely passing. 

This was the case for Dinah Washinton, who was still in peak musical form when she died of an accidental overdose on December 14, 1963. 

The autopsy revealed that her death was the result of an overdose of diet pills and alcohol.

28. Brad Renfro

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Last on our list of celebrities who overdosed is Brad Renfro, who was known for his exceptional performance in the blockbuster movie The Client. The child star’s bright future was soon clouded when he experienced difficulties in his private life, including being addicted to drugs and a series of arrests

On January 15, 2008, he died at the age of 25 due to morphine intoxication.

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Written by Angelo Ruelan


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