Contrary to what many people believe, addiction is not just limited to street gangs, deviants, and the homeless. As a leading disease worldwide, drug addiction does not discriminate on the basis of color, race, creed, or gender. it has the potential to ruin the lives of absolutely anyone, from stay-at-home middle-class parents to CEOs of major corporations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that addiction is so common today that as many as 1 in 10 Americans suffer from this debilitating disease. Celebrity substance abuse is also becoming more common among Hollywood’s elite, from singers, actors, politicians, social media celebrities, and more. the tragedy of celebrity drug use only serves as one more indication of how prolific this problem really is.
Celebrities who tragically died of drug overdoses exemplify the realities and difficulties that make drug addiction a serious public health problem today and remind us of the importance of treatment and accessibility to addiction programs. Contact us today to learn more about Aspenridge Recovery in Colorado at 855-281-5588.
Despite the fame, fortune, and endless free time that often accompanies the celebrity lifestyle, there are a number of famous stars and public figures who suffer from the disease of addiction. True, the massive funding of these stars may have certainly exacerbated their problems. after all, it is a high price to pay to maintain an addictive lifestyle. however, it is important to recognize that even people who “have it all” are at equal risk when it comes to celebrity substance abuse. Names like Charlie Sheen, Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love and many others have become synonymous with the relentless abuse of drugs like cocaine, heroin and alcohol. But other big-name actors and icons have also secretly battled their own demons of addiction. this list of 23 surprising celebrity drug addicts shows that not only did some of the biggest names in hollywood struggle with substance abuse, but many of them sought treatment to help them overcome the disease of addiction.
celebrity substance abuse: 23 stars who suffer from addiction
1. daniel radcliffe – alcohol
“I lived in constant fear of who I would meet, what I might have said to them, what I might have done with them, so I would stay in my apartment for days and drink alone. I was a recluse at 20. It was pathetic, it wasn’t me. I’m a fun and polite person, and that made me a boring rude.” ~daniel radcliffe
One of the most amazing celebrity junkies, without a doubt, has to be Harry Potter himself. daniel radcliffe has spent much of his life in the spotlight since the popular film adaptations of the magical franchise took off in the early 2000s. but as the guardian reported, the constant pressure on radcliffe to live up to the fans’ lofty standards was brutal at times. and, consequently, the young actor would face this pressure by resorting to the bottle. Alcohol remains one of the most widely used addictive substances in the world. Radcliffe told interviewers that he would sometimes arrive on the set of movies still drunk from the night before. Finally, he realized that he was not only becoming a burden to the people he cared about, but also becoming someone he no longer recognized. Today, the world’s most popular wizard (sorry Gandalf) is a new man after finally seeking help. the urge to drink is still there, but now he channels that same energy into exercise. and judging by radcliffe’s successful recovery, it appears this spell may have worked.
2. leonard nimoy – alcohol
“By the time we finished the last drink, I would have a drink. then it turned into a series of drinks, little by little…before I knew it, I was drinking more and more because my addictive personality was taking over.” ~leonard nimoy
The relentlessly rational and timelessly iconic Vulcan alien may have mastered his body and mind in the sci-fi classic Star Trek, but the actor who plays him actually battled alcoholism for years. It’s true: Leonard Nimoy himself was a slave to addiction at one point in his life. According to other actors, Nemoy would end each recording with a ritual drink. Eventually, the problem spiraled out of control and the famous actor resorted to covert drinking while filming. Like many other famous drug addicts, Nemoy blamed the pressure of the limelight and fame in part. on top of that, a troubled marriage made giving his will to the bottle that much more tempting. Fortunately, Nemoy recognized one of the many hard truths about alcoholism, that it can often be deadly, before it was too late and sought professional help. he kicked his addiction in 1987, fell in love with his second wife and lived a long time and prospered without the help of alcohol.
3. zac effron – alcohol, cocaine
“without those moments when you feel at your lowest point, it is impossible to appreciate the highest moments… but today I sit here in front of you much happier and healthier than I probably have never been.” ~zac effron
Zac Effron, a former high school musical student, has seen his fair share of problems caused by drinking too much and the mind-altering effects of illegal drugs. According to some sources, the actor was snorting cocaine, dabbling in MDMA and partying for days at a time without sleeping. In 2013, the young star entered rehab (an essential part of recovery) for both alcohol and cocaine. In addition to the specialized addiction treatment care he found in this professional program, Effron has also joined Alcoholics Anonymous and has been delving into deeper topics with a therapist. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Effron said of his battle with addiction, “It’s a never ending fight.” But like most who eventually seek help for his addiction, the talented young actor has found relief in recovery. “I think he has changed my life,” he says. “I feel much more comfortable in my own skin. things are much easier now.”
4. Robert Downey Jr. – alcohol, cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines, marijuana
“[The addiction is] like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and I like the taste of metal… I don’t drink these days. I am allergic to alcohol and drugs. I leave in handcuffs.” ~robert downey jr.
Few transitions from Hollywood bad boy to international role model have been as dramatic as that of Robert Downey Jr. he literally went from serving time in state prison to becoming one of the best-known superheroes in movie history in less than a decade. And while most people may know that Downey’s past is a bit, well, sketchy, they may not fully understand the scope. The Iron-Man actor was first arrested in ’96 for possession of heroin, cocaine, and an unloaded firearm after being pulled over for speeding. shortly after, he was arrested again for breaking and entering after breaking into a neighbor’s house while under the influence. After spending time in prison and on probation, Downey skipped a drug test and was later sentenced to state prison in 1999. He was released in 2000, but just 3 months later he was arrested again after being caught with cocaine and Valium, one of the most widely abused prescription drugs. that’s a good rap sheet. Fortunately, Downey seems to have found the help he needed, and given the amazing success he’s seen recently, things are looking up for the one-time addict. And like so many addicts before him, the Marvel icon has considered his past learning experience, not a defining mistake. In a speech at the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War, Downey spoke of his previous struggles as an opportunity. “The past for me was 30 years of dependency, depravity and despair… aka ‘an actor prepares!'” In fact, Downey even received a full pardon for his past infractions from the Governor of California. things are looking up for this modern superhero.
5. oprah – crack/cocaine
“It was weird. I just saw this woman I’ve admired so much. and she’s been where I’ve been and she got out of it. I am 35 years old and have done nothing for most of my life except get high. she walked away from it. she gave me hope.” ~kim davis, former drug addict, talking about an interview with oprah
You’ve seen her on TV, in movies, on the cover of her own magazine. she enlightened, educated and empowered millions during her reign as “queen of daytime television”. And not to mention, she gave her entire studio audience a new car. So it may come as a bit of a surprise that such a monumental media figure actually struggled with addiction, and with a particularly powerful and stigmatized drug, no less. That’s right, Oprah once had a crack problem. During one of her 1995 talk shows focusing on women with drug problems, Oprah Winfrey admitted to her guests that she, too, struggled with addiction when she was in her early 20s. “I took your drug,” she told Kim Davis, a recovering addict and mother. “It took me completely by surprise,” Davis told the washington post. “You would never dream that she had a drug problem,” Oprah told the audience and reporters who followed the story that her substance abuse occurred during her relationship with a man in her life. when they were together, they both used it. and for her, one of her biggest regrets was having “given my power to a man.” this imbalance of power when it comes to the sexes and addictions is not uncommon. And, in fact, it’s just one of the many reasons why signing up for a recovery program specifically geared toward treating women can be so helpful.
6. jodie sweetin – alcohol, ecstasy, crack, methamphetamine
“It was all about my addiction,” he told People in 2008 about his time with meth. “On a typical day, I would wake up and feel terrible because I hadn’t done anything. either you’re trying to get it, doing it, or worrying about when you’re going to get it next. you don’t even realize it’s taken over so quickly.” ~jodie sweetin
jodie sweetin’s experience with substance abuse began early, like many childhood stars before her. Best known for her role as Stephanie Tanner on Full House (with the memorable catchphrase “so rude!”), Sweetin’s spiral began shortly after she ended the hit show. Although adjusting to “normal” life was somewhat easier for many of her co-stars, Sweetin supplemented many of her young adult experiences with a variety of drugs, including crack, methamphetamine, alcohol, and ecstasy. As a result, her education suffered (as it does for many substance-abusing college kids), and her youth began a decades-long struggle to maintain sobriety. During that time, she developed an “all day, every day” meth habit, went from 130 to 100 pounds, and had lied to the friends and family she loved so much, according to Enews. part of the problem may have been genetic. As most people know, the risk of addiction is determined in part by her genes. children of alcoholics, for example, may be more programmed to use again than others. sweetin’s mother had also been addicted. But over time, and with continued commitment to recovery, the Full House star was finally able to kick her addictions and rekindle her career in the spotlight with Fuller House. . which is now in its third season. recovery is possible!
7. dennis quaid – cocaine
“I was basically doing cocaine almost every day during the 80’s…spent many, many nights screaming at god to take this away from me, I’ll never do it again because I only have an hour before I have to be at work…’ I saw myself dead or losing everything that meant anything to me.” ~dennis quaid
dennis quaid has the good natured vibe of a neighbor who would spend his saturday afternoon helping you fix your lawnmower. something about him makes you think he drinks milk with dinner, always reads the paper in the morning, and goes to bed every night at 8:30. but quaid’s past was not as healthy as might be expected. In fact, the actor admits that when he first came to Hollywood in the ’80s, he jumped on the cocaine bandwagon, and he did it hard. When he starred in “The Big Easy” in 1987, he told Fox News, Quaid only slept about an hour a night. He “was even in some movie budgets,” he says. he was bottoming out. and he knew it was time for a change. in 1990 he finally sought the help he so badly needed. He admitted to his then-wife Meg Ryan that he had a problem and entered rehab for cocaine addiction. the two then faced a very difficult public divorce. “That was the end of the love affair with me and cocaine,” Quaid said. and by the looks of it, he hasn’t been back since.
8. judy garland – amphetamines, barbiturates
“judy was determined to look like a ‘movie star’: she wanted to be skinny for the camera. she was that old bugaboo. I reiterated that there was no need to be thinner. . . . her excuse was the issue of weight, when in reality she was dependent. . . . she confessed that it was practically impossible for her to maintain a working mode in front of the cameras without taking some kind of medication.” ~sid luft, garland’s third husband
Celebrity substance abuse has been around for a long time. The extraordinary singer, actress, vaudevillian, and international star Judy Garland passed away due to a drug overdose in 1969. Constantly struggling with issues related to self-image, the patriarchy of Hollywood, and the rampant sexism that was so commonplace, Garland took amphetamines to control her weight and used barbiturates to calm her down afterwards. The most troubling part of Garland’s experience is that this blatant substance abuse seems to be embedded in the cinematic institution of the time. Garland told biographer Richard A. Lertzman that studio executives would use the drugs to get as much work out of him as possible. “They had us [Judy and Mickey Rooney] working day and night,” she said. “They gave us pills to keep us going long after we were exhausted. then they would take us to the studio hospital and knock us out with sleeping pills… then after four hours they would wake us up and give us the pills again so we could work 72 hours straight.” Unfortunately, this cruel abuse led Garland to develop a serious addiction to these prescription drugs. And at the young age of just 47, Ella Garland suffered a fatal overdose of barbiturates. She goes down in history as one of the most iconic stars in Hollywood, as well as one of her greatest tragedies.
9. stephen king – alcohol, cocaine, sleeping pills
“I didn’t just have a problem with beer and cocaine. she had an addictive personality, period…she smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, loved listerine, loved nyquil, you name it. if it would change your conscience, I was totally in favor.” ~stephen king
If anyone belongs to the horror-story royalty class, it’s Stephen King. has been behind some of the biggest names in the thriller genre (both in writing and on film), including it, the shining, misery, carrie, pet sematary, and countlessothers. he is undoubtedly considered one of the most prolific writers of all time. But what many people don’t know is that Stephen King actually struggled with rampant substance abuse for years. Beer (after beer after beer…) was King’s chosen method of keeping his ideas flowing and his typewriter rattling. soon, however, that addiction progressed to harsher substances of abuse. cocaine, for example, was his drug of choice to fuel his late-night writing stint. the writer describes how he covered his nose with cotton balls so that the blood would not drip onto the typewriter. Eventually, drinking and using became such an integral part of King’s writing process that he felt he would be a failure if he ever abandoned them. and that made it even harder to finally get clean. however, after years of watching the self-destruction, the king’s family and friends finally decided to intervene. It took several tries, but with the right help, the monumental horror novelist was finally able to kick his addiction to not only drugs but alcohol as well. Some of King’s best work (which was much less rambling) actually grew out of his sobriety: The Green Mile, The Dark Tower, 11/22/63 . and as you can see, finding the muse without being under the influence is indeed possible. just look at stephen king!
10. jon hamm – alcohol
“[rehab] has all these connotations, but it’s just an extended period of talking about yourself… people go for all sorts of reasons, not all of them chemically related. but there’s something to be said for getting out out of the grind for a period of time and focus on recalibrating the system. and it works. that’s great. ~jon hamm
the face of the recently feuding crazy men sought treatment for an alcohol addiction. Anyone who has seen the series knows how much liquor these characters drink every day. But it seems that Hamm, the star of the series, may have taken on some of the demons of the role she was playing: advertising executive Don Draper. Hamm has tried to alleviate some of the stigma surrounding addiction rehab ever since he graduated from a 30-day program. in an interview with instyle, hamm said that rehab is like treating any other illness. “Medical care is medical care, whether it’s for the elbow, the teeth, or the brain,” he says. “And it’s important. We live in a world where admitting anything negative about oneself is seen as a weakness when in fact it is a strength. It’s not a weak move to say, ‘I need help.’ in the long run, it’s much better because you have to fix it.”
11. Jamie Lee Curtis – Prescription Opioids
“so, pending final toxicology, it has now been reported in the new york times that prince was toxic. I can relate i was also toxic… i too waited anxiously for a prescription for the opiate i was secretly addicted to… i too took too many at once. I also sought to kill the emotional and physical pain with painkillers. kill him make it stop” ~jamie lee curtis
As most people know today, the United States is in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis known as the opioid epidemic. celebrity substance abuse of prescription painkillers like oxycontin, fentanyl, vicodin, and dilaudid is all too common. Nationwide, abuse of these drugs has increased 63% in the last five years.
Hollywood icon jamie lee curtis knows firsthand the dangers of opioids. he struggled with an addiction to these dangerous drugs for more than 17 years. Like so many others, Curtis became addicted to the euphoria provided by these powerful prescriptions after they were given to her to help relieve pain after a medical procedure. however, after realizing how much pain her addiction was causing her family, curtis made the decision to kick her drug addiction for good. She now spends her time working as a volunteer counselor on anti-drug campaigns where she can inspire others to follow in her footsteps. opioids can be especially difficult to stop using. But no matter how far her addiction has gone, there is always hope for recovery.
other famous drug addicts
As you can see, addiction spares no one. even the most unsuspecting and surprising people can be affected by a substance abuse problem if they are not careful. Below are a few more Hollywood stars who have struggled with substance abuse in the past along with some direct quotes about what they learned along the way. tim allen – cocaine
“[Rehab] placed me in a very humble position and I was able to make amends with friends and family and refocus my life on setting and achieving goals.”
mathew perry – alcohol, prescription painkillers
“From an outsider’s perspective, it would seem I have it all. actually, it was a very lonely time for me because I was suffering from alcoholism… it was happening before my friends, but it is a progressive disease… I had a big problem with pills and alcohol, and I couldn’t stop.”
jane lynch – alcohol, drugs otc
“Despite being a kid looking for excuses to feel different, unworthy, and separate, my not-so-exciting drinking backstory didn’t stop me from feeling an affinity. I felt the same feelings that many people in AA talked about: alienation, self-loathing, and obsession. I felt like I was coming home and I couldn’t wait to get to a meeting every day and sometimes I would make it to two.”
aaron sorkin – cocaine, marijuana, mushrooms
“The real problem with all drugs is that they work. fantastically. they’re great, right up to the moment they kill you.”
angelina jolie – heroin, cocaine
“I have used almost every possible drug: cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, lsd.”
“The drugs thing was really fun… until it stopped being fun. But you know what, I appreciate the day that happened to me. because that is my strength, my faith, my hope for something better.”
“I still dream, at least twice a week, that I took cocaine and it’s stuck up my nose… and it’s very vivid and very disturbing, but at least it’s a wake-up call.
anthony hopkins – alcohol
“If you are an alcoholic or a drug addict, we flirt with death. we push ourselves to the brink of destruction and, if we’re lucky, retreat. we all have that in us.”
ben affleck – alcohol
“I want to live life to the fullest and be the best father I can be. I want my children to know that there is no shame in getting help when they need it and that they should be a source of strength for anyone who needs help but is afraid to take the first step.”
rob lowe – alcohol
“sobriety was the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself. I don’t put it on a platform. I don’t campaign about it. is something that works for me. It allowed me to really connect with another human being, my wife, Sheryl, something I had never been able to do before.”
russel brand – alcohol
“Change is difficult, that’s why we can’t do it alone and that’s why it’s vital that we have a basis of hope.”
robin williams – cocaine, alcohol
“My battles with addiction definitely shaped who I am today. They really made me deeply appreciate human contact. and the value of friends and family, how precious is that.”
recovery is possible, with the right help!
As you can see, the typical stereotype of a drug addict (poor, scruffy and unsuccessful) doesn’t really hold up. After all, who would have thought that Harry Potter, Spock, and the queen of daytime TV herself struggled with substance use disorders at some point in their lives? addiction doesn’t have a fixed brand, a specific type of person that it pounces on. Absolutely anyone can develop a problem with drugs or alcohol. and many times, the people closest to them don’t even know that something is wrong to begin with. That’s why it’s so important to know how to spot the signs of addiction early on, so you can get help before it’s too late. You can also take a short online addiction quiz to help you assess addictive behaviors or even get in touch for a free phone evaluation. In the end, the most important step is acknowledging that there is a problem and making a commitment to get help. As many of the famous drug addicts mentioned above have shown, addiction is not permanent, and it is certainly not a death sentence. recovery is possible, and with the right help, it can be easier than you ever imagined.
If you are struggling to cope with addiction, support services and various treatment options are available to you through Aspenridge Recovery. we have extensive experience treating substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. speak with a treatment specialist today to discuss your options for finding sobriety. call 855-281-5588