Drug-Related Deaths - Notable Celebrities

The tragic loss of a renowned celebrity or athlete to a drug or alcohol-related death is an event that often leaves many unanswered questions. Famous and much-loved celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Heath Ledger have been the victims of such unfortunate circumstances. While many deaths may be due to misuse of illegal substances, these drugs are not always illicit - and an overdose may not always be intentional.

Drug Interactions Can Be Deadly

Death due to drugs can also be the result of mixing prescribed medications with other drugs (legal or illegal), alcohol, over-the-counter medications or even herbal supplements. Drug-drug interactions may also play a role in drug-related deaths. For example, the consumption of multiple central nervous system depressants, such as opioid pain killers, sedatives, hypnotics, or alcohol may lead to an unintentional overdose due to severely depressed breathing.

Mixing illicit, prescription or over-the-counter medications can be dangerous, and patients should always rule out drug interactions with their healthcare provider. The use of prescription medications with illegal drugs or alcohol can produce an unpredictable and fatal response, and many deaths due to such circumstances may have been preventable.

The following table outlines the death of notable celebrities and athletes who have had drugs or alcohol implicated in their deaths.

Name Notable Fame Cause of Death Drug Category When Down Age
Philip Seymour Hoffman Actor Heroin overdose (unconfirmed) Illegal drug 2014 46
Cory Monteith Actor (Glee) and singer Toxic mix of heroin and alcohol Illegal drug and alcohol 2013 31
Lisa Robin Kelly Actress (That '70s Show) Multiple drug intoxication Illegal drug 2013 43
Chris Kelly Rapper (Kris Kross) Fatal overdose, cocaine and heroin Illegal drug 2013 34
Jeff Hanneman Musician (Slayer) Cirrhosis due to alcoholism Alcohol 2013 49
Whitney Houston American singer, actress Drowning; complications of cocaine and heart disease; Flexeril, marijuana, Xanax and Benadryl also found in body but did not contribute to death Illegal drug 2012 48
Michael Carl Baze Horse jockey Overdose; cocaine, oxymorphone (accidental) Mixed prescription/ illegal drugs 2011 24
Derek Boogaard Canadian professional ice hockey player; left wing (New York Rangers) Alcohol and oxycodone overdose (accidental) Mixed alcohol and prescription drugs 2011 28
Amy Winehouse English singer and songwriter Fatal alcohol poisoning; alcoholism Alcohol 2011 27
Erica Blasberg American golfer (LPGA) Asphyxia; multiple drug overdose: butalbital, temazepam, alprazolam, codeine, hydrocodone, and tramadol (suicide) Prescription drugs 2010 25
Andy Irons Surfer Cardiac arrest complicated by mixed drug ingestion (cocaine, methamphetamine, alprazolam, methadone) Mixed illegal and prescription drugs 2010 32
Edward Fatu “Umaga” Samoan-American professional wrestler Hydrocodone, carisoprodol, diazepam (accidental) Prescription drug overdose 2009 36
Michael Jackson American Pop Singer and icon Cardiac arrest, acute propofol intoxication; midazolam, lidocaine, diazepam, lorazepam also noted in autopsy report Prescription drugs 2009 50
Billy Mays Spokesperson Heart disease possibly complicated by cocaine use Illegal drug 2009 51
Christopher Bowman American figure skater Drug overdose: cocaine, diazepam, cannabis, alcohol (accidental) Mixed alcohol, illegal and prescription drugs 2008 40
Heath Ledger Australian actor Combined drug toxicity due to oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, diazepam, temazepam, doxylamine (accidental) Prescription drug overdose 2008 28
Scott Charles (“Bam Bam”) Bigelow American professional wrestler; World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) Multiple drug overdose: cocaine, temazepam (accidental), possibly worsened by heart disease Mixed illegal and prescription drugs 2007 45
Chris Mainwaring Australian Football Player Cocaine overdose (accidental) Illegal drug 2007 41
Anna Nicole Smith American model, Playboy playmate, actress Combined drug toxicity due to chloral hydrate and benzodiazepines (accidental) Prescription drugs 2007 40
Ike Turner Musician, bandleader, songwriter, producer Cardiovascular, lung disease complicated by cocaine overdose (accidental) Illegal drug 2007 76
George Best Professional soccer player Complications due to alcohol abuse, alcoholism Alcohol 2005 59
Eddie Guerrero Professional wrestler Cardiomyopathy, heart disease, possibly due to anabolic steroid use Anabolic steroids (speculated) 2005 38
Steven Scott Bechler Major League baseball pitcher; Baltimore Orioles Heat stroke exacerbated by ephedra Alternative/herbal drug 2003 23
Anthony Durante Professional wrestler Oxycodone or fentanyl overdose (accidental) Prescription drug overdose 2003 36
Howie Epstein American bass guitarist (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) Possible heroin overdose; also reportedly using prescription antibiotics Illegal drug overdose 2003 47
Elisa Bridges American model, actress Drug overdose: heroin, methamphetamine, alprazolam, meperidine Mixed illegal and prescription drugs 2002 28
Douglas Glenn Colvin, aka Dee Dee Ramone American songwriter and musician (The Ramones) Heroin overdose (accidental) Illegal drug 2002 50
John Entwistle English bass guitarist (The Who) Heart attack induced by cocaine Illegal drug 2002 58
Darrell Porter American professional baseball player Cocaine overdose (accident) Illegal drug 2002 50
Christopher Wiley Antley Horse jockey; 2-time Kentucky Derby winner Overdose; (clobenzorex, paroxetine, methamphetamine, carbamazepine) and trauma (accidental) Prescription drugs 2000 34
Chris Farley Comedian, actor; Saturday Night Live sketch comedy TV show Overdose; combination of morphine and cocaine; complicated by heart disease; fluoxetine also in system (accidental) Illegal drugs 1997 33
Peter Jackson Australian rugby player Heroin overdose (suicide) Illegal drug 1997 33
Margeaux Hemingway American actress Phenobarbital overdose; suicide Prescription drug overdose 1996 42
Kurt Cobain American singer-songwriter and musician (Nirvana) Gunshot wound to head; heroin and diazepam found in body (suicide) Mixed illegal and prescription drugs 1994 27
River Phoenix American actor Heroin and cocaine overdose Illegal drugs 1993 23
David Waymer American football player, NFL Heart attack, cocaine related Illegal drug 1993 34
Paul Hayward Professional Rugby League Player; Newton Jets (Australia) Heroin overdose; contracted HIV in prison Illegal drug overdose 1992 38
John Kordic Professional hockey player Lung failure complicated by unspecified drug overdose (possible anabolic steroid abuse) unknown 1992 27
Abbie Hoffman American Political activist Phenobarbital overdose (suicide) Prescription drug overdose 1989 52
Chet Baker Jazz musician and singer, trumpet player, guitarist Accidental fall from hotel window; cocaine, heroin Illegal drugs 1988 59
David Croudip American football defensive cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons Cocaine overdose (accidental) Illegal drug 1988 30
Len Bias Boston Celtics second overall NBA draft pick (1986) Cardiac arrhythmia induced by a cocaine overdose (accidental) Illegal drug 1986 23
Don Rogers Football safety in the National Football League (US), Cleveland Browns Fatal cocaine overdose (accidental) Illegal drug 1986 23
Richard Burton Welsh-born actor Cerebral hemorrhage; possible complications due to alcohol, alcoholism Alcohol 1984 58
Truman Capote American writer Liver disease complicated by phlebitis, alcohol and multiple drug intoxication Alcohol 1984 59
David Kennedy Fourth son of Robert F. Kennedy; no profession Overdose of cocaine, meperidine, thioridazine (controversial, some say he was murdered) Mixed illegal and prescription drugs 1984 28
John Belushi American actor; comedian; musician; Saturday Night Live comedy TV show Speedball overdose; a combination of heroin and cocaine (accidental) Illegal drugs 1982 33
Jon Bonham English musician (drummer) and songwriter (Led Zeppelin) Asphyxiation due to massive alcohol consumption Alcohol 1980 32
John Simon Ritchie, aka Sid Vicious Musician (Sex Pistols) Heroin overdose (suicide) Illegal drug 1979 21
Keith Moon Drummer (The Who) Clomethiazole overdose Prescription drug 1978 32
Elvis Presley American musician, singer, actor, cultural icon Heart arrhythmia, possibly aggravated by multiple prescriptions (methaqualone, codeine, barbiturates, cocaine), speculated Mixed illegal and prescription drugs, speculated 1977 42
Freddie Prinze Actor Self-inflicted gunshot; possibly under influence of methaqualone, cocaine (suicide) Mixed illegal and prescription drugs, speculated 1977 22
Howard Hughes American business tycoon, movie producer and director, aviator, engineer, investor Kidney failure; possible complications due to chronic use of aspirin (high doses) and dehydration Nonprescription drug (not confirmed) 1976 70
Bruce Lee Martial artist, actor, film director, pop culture icon Cerebral edema due to meprobramate, aspirin Prescription drug overdose 1973 32
Jim Morrison Musician, singer, songwriter (The Doors) Heart failure; possible heroin or cocaine overdose (disputed) Illegal drug 1971 27
Jimi Hendrix American musician and singer-songwriter Respiratory arrest, asphyxia due to alcohol and barbiturate overdose; vomit inhalation Mixed alcohol and prescription drugs 1970 27
Janis Joplin American musician Heroin overdose Illegal drug 1970 27
Judy Garland American actress and singer Barbiturate (Seconal) overdose; controversial if suicide or accident Prescription drug overdose 1969 47
Brian Jones Musician (The Rolling Stones) Drowning due to alcohol and drug intoxication unknown 1969 27
Jack Kerouac Author Cirrhosis of liver, internal bleeding due to alcohol use Alcohol 1969 47
Brian Epstein English businessman; manager (The Beatles) Sedative overdose (accidental) Prescription drug overdose 1967 32
Lenny Bruce American comedian Drug overdose: morphine (accidental) Illegal drugs 1966 40
Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb Football defensive lineman in the National Football League (US), Pittsburgh Steelers; professional wrestler Heroin overdose (accidental) Illegal drug 1963 31
Marilyn Monroe American actress, model, singer, sex symbol Barbiturate overdose (suicide) Prescription drug 1962 36
Billy Holiday American jazz singer and songwriter Cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol; alcoholism Alcohol 1959 44
Joseph McCarthy U.S. Senator Hepatitis exacerbated by alcohol, alcoholism Alcohol 1957 48
Tommy Dorsey American jazz musician Choked himself while sleeping; unable to awaken due to sedative use Prescription drug overdose 1956 51
Hank Williams, Sr. Country music singer-songwriter Heart failure, possibly alcohol, drug-related (accidental) Mixed alcohol and Illegal drugs (speculated) 1953 29
Sigmund Freud Neurologist Physician-assisted suicide; morphine Prescription drug overdose 1939 83

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