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18 Celebrities Who Struggled With Drug Addiction

celebrities who struggled with drug addiction

Celebrities are admired by all. Whether they make us laugh or amaze us with their remarkable talent, we look up to these stars and sometimes envy them for their success. Yet, there’s sometimes a dark side to fame.

Substance use disorder wreaks havoc on all aspects of life, impacting relationships, careers, and a person’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Celebrities are not immune to the seeming allure of substances. Yet, celebrities with addiction often find that their careers have taken a toll. From actors to other famous people, these stars’ careers were impacted by substance use disorder.

18 Celebrity Addiction Stories

Hollywood has been ripe with mind-altering substances since the days of Charlie Chaplin. But why do celebrities do drugs? While not all actors have done drugs, excess income and the high pressures of their very public job lead many performers to these substances.

Actors who continue their drug use sometimes find themselves blackballed, as directors, studios, and other actors no longer want to work with them. Other celebrities with addiction have had their lives cut short by the tragic cycle of substance use. Still, many celebrities have pursued recovery and found peace. 

1. Charlie Sheen

In the 1980s, Charlie Sheen was one of Hollywood’s most famous young stars. While his popularity ebbed and flowed in the following decades, he’s known as one of the most notorious celebrities who went to rehab thanks to his very public meltdown in 2011. He lost his high-paying TV gig on “Two and a Half Men,” and he’s working on his recovery today. 

2. Judy Garland

The beloved star of “The Wizard of Oz” reportedly became addicted to pills and alcohol to deal with her sudden rise to fame and intense shooting schedules. For most of her adult life, she continued to struggle with substance use disorder until she tragically died of an overdose of barbiturates.

3. Whitney Houston

One of the most popular singers of all time, Whitney Houston, spent a lot of time in and out of addiction treatment centers because of a severe addiction to various illicit and illegal substances. Her tragic death in 2012 ended an incredible singing and acting career while highlighting the cost of celebrity drug abuse. 

4. Steve Howe

Steve Howe played 12 MLB seasons with the LA Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, NY Yankees, and Texas Rangers. Although he was a talented pitcher, his career was impacted by stints in rehab and suspension from the commissioner’s office. Because of his troubles, Howe walked away from baseball in 1996. A 2006 drug-related car accident tragically took his life.

5. Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore made headlines when she announced her struggle with addiction at just 13 years old. Among the celebrities who went to rehab, Barrymore came from a renowned family of actors who also struggled with addiction. She states she began using cocaine at age 12, around five years after the movie “E.T.” launched her acting career. She says her drug use was a coping mechanism for her childhood stardom. 

Barrymore spent her teen years overcoming addiction. Since then, she has found a substance-free lifestyle, enjoying success as an actress, talk show host, and producer. 

6. Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan’s life is among the many stories of childhood celebrities and drugs. “The Parent Trap” star struggled with drugs, alcohol, and DUI arrests, and she made several attempts at recovery throughout her life. When “Mean Girls” made her a household name, she moved to Los Angeles at age 18 without a support system. Here, she quickly gained a reputation for her partying and substance-filled lifestyle.

After a DUI, Lohan began attending 12-step meetings at age 21 and noted how alcohol was a gateway drug to other substances like cocaine. She has since made a comeback, starring in a Netflix original movie in 2022 and citing meditation and cooking as conducive to her healthier lifestyle. 

7. River Phoenix

Promising star River Phoenix, known for his critically acclaimed roles in the ’80s and ’90s, shocked the world when he died of a heroin overdose in 1993. The actor was not known for a history of addiction, but close friend and musician John Frusciante stated that he and Phoenix had a multiday binge of cocaine and heroin right before Phoenix’s death. His story reveals how the recreational use of these substances often leads to tragic outcomes.

9. Heath Ledger

The actor Heath Ledger died in 2008 of a toxic combination of six prescription drugs. His death came shortly after starring in “The Dark Knight,” a role which won him a posthumous Academy Award for best supporting actor at the 2009 Oscars. The actor admitted that the role had become a source of strain on his life and that he had turned to painkillers, anti-anxiety medication, and sleeping pills to manage recurring stress and insomnia. 

Ledger’s story reveals the impact stress has on the development of substance use disorder and the dangers it can bring. 

10. Macauley Culkin

Macauley Culkin’s spiral into addiction began after soaring into fame at just 10 years old. Known for his lead role in “Home Alone,” family and legal issues began plaguing his life at an early age. At just 15, Culkin formally emancipated himself by removing his parents as legal guardians. He was later arrested in 2004 for Xanax and marijuana possession. Today, Culkin has found recovery, started a family, and maintained a thriving indie acting career. 

11. Corey Feldman

Thrust into the spotlight from the time he could walk, Corey Feldman starred in several top-grossing movies in the ’80s before he reached adulthood. The actor’s battle with heroin addiction began as a teen. Childhood abuse, neglect, and young fame likely played a role in his addiction. While he reached sobriety in 1995, his career never quite recovered. Today, he aims to highlight child abuse in the entertainment industry and help others with similar struggles. 

12. Philip Seymour Hoffman

Oscar nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman is among the celebrity addiction stories that end in tragedy. As a young adult, the “Capote” star turned to alcohol and heroin before entering a professional treatment center at age 21. After two decades of sobriety, he relapsed and died from combined drug intoxication in 2014. His partner cited many stressors that likely led to his relapse, revealing how recovery is a lifelong journey. 

13. Johnny Depp

Known for his roles in countless movies over the last few decades, Johnny Depp has also struggled with substance use disorder. The actor admitted that he began smoking at age 11 and experimenting with drugs shortly after as a coping mechanism for a turbulent childhood. More recently, his therapist revealed his struggle with opioids, stimulants, and benzodiazepines — all prescription drugs that can have deadly consequences when misused. Since recognizing his addiction, Depp has sought professional help.

14. Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe’s rise to fame quickly spiraled into addiction. Her addiction had grown so she could no longer work, with friends citing public scrutiny and lack of privacy exacerbating her struggle with depression and anxiety. Her dazzling career was cut short in 1962 after suffering an overdose of barbiturates, likely due to suicide. Marilyn Monroe’s story reflects how celebrity culture and co-occurring disorders can often be at the root of addictions.

15. Kirsten Dunst

While largely known for her role in the “Spider-Man” film series, Kirsten Dunst struggled with addiction in her 20s. The actress entered a treatment center in 2008, citing depression as an underlying factor of her substance use. She had recently ended a relationship, turning to alcohol and drugs like ecstasy to cope with anger and sadness. After receiving help for her depression and addiction, Dunst has since recovered. 

16. Matthew Perry

From 1994 to 2004, Matthew Perry was beloved for his role in the famous sitcom “Friends.” But unbeknownst to the public, off-screen, he was battling alcohol and prescription drug addiction. The actor says he developed an addiction after being prescribed painkillers due to a watercraft accident. After several surgeries, near-death experiences, and attempts at recovery over the years, Perry continues to battle his addiction to this day, seeing helping others as a crucial step toward his own recovery.

17. Elton John

In recent years, the singer-songwriter Elton John has opened up about his 20-year battle with drugs and alcohol. He has stated that he turned to substances to help cope with the pressures of fame, falling victim to a vicious cycle. After recognizing how substances were endangering his health and career, he was able to seek professional help. 

Today, he hopes to inspire others and urge them to prioritize recovery and get the treatment they need. He stated the importance of healing and taking time for yourself in a 2019 interview, declaring that he feels he wouldn’t be sober if he hadn’t taken a year off to dedicate to a recovery program.

18. Jamie Lee Curtis

Academy Award winner and “Halloween” star Jamie Lee Curtis recently opened up about her 10-year struggle with substances. She says she misused prescription opiates and kept her addiction hidden for years, noting how substance use disorder destroyed generations of her family. Her story reminds us that addiction tends to run in families — like all genetic disorders, the closer the relationship, the higher the risk of developing it

In 1999, Curtis attended a recovery meeting and confided in family members, and her life changed forever. In 2021, she declared she was 22 years sober, viewing it as the most significant accomplishment that was “bigger than any work, success, failure. Anything. “

Don’t Get Robbed of One More Day

Don't Get Robbed of One More Day

These stories are heartbreaking examples of how drug addiction can rob even the most talented people of their potential. However, recovery is possible; you don’t have to face it alone. At Gateway Foundation, we want to help you take back your life with evidence-based treatments that work. We customize our recovery programs to fit your exact needs in a comfortable and compassionate setting.

Please contact us today to find out more. Our life-saving addiction treatment is the first step to a fuller, healthier life.

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