Although celebrities seem like they have it all – fame, money, fortune and friends, the constant scrutiny and public attention often drives them to breaking point.
Whether it’s due to the high-pressure job or lack of privacy, we often see those in the public eye finding release in drugs and alcohol.
While some of these troubled icons break free from the bad habit, others end up tragically taking their lives instead.
Here we take a trip back down memory lane and uncover the celebrities who have been on drugs and suffered from alcohol abuse.
1. Elton John
Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine
Sober: Since 1990
Rising to fame in an era where drugs were the rave found Elton John battling with an addiction. As depicted in his biopic, Rocketman, the iconic singer was abusing alcohol and cocaine during the height of his fame to overcome confidence issues.
But when his dear friend and AIDS activist, Ryan White died in 1990, Elton sought treatment, turned over a new leaf and launched an Aids Foundation.
On celebrating 29 years of sobriety, Elton posted on Instagram,
“29 years ago today, I was a broken man. I finally summoned up the courage to say three words that would change my life: “I need help.” Thank you to all the selfless people who have helped me on my journey through sobriety. I am eternally grateful.”
2. Bradley Cooper
Substances: Alcohol, drugs (unknown)
Sober: Since 2004
He may be known for his iconic movie roles in comedies and romances, but on his way to success, Bradley Cooper also struggled with the use of alcohol and drugs. His addiction was so bad, that he’d even once deliberately bashed his head on a concrete floor and had thoughts of suicide.
At the age of 29, Bradley thankfully decided to curb his bad habits and has never looked back since. On discussing his addictions, Bradley told GQ in 2013,
“If I continued it, I was really going to sabotage my whole life.”
In the 2018 movie, A Star is Born, the leading actor played the role of Jasckson, a musician who was also struggling with addiction. He told Variety that playing such a relatable role was a “cathartic” experience.
3. Michael Jackson
Substances: Propofol, benzodiazepine, alprazolam, sertraline & other prescription drugs
Recovered? Died in 2009
Pop legend Michael Jackson also suffered with personal issues throughout his lifetime in the public eye. He sadly died from acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication in 2009. The star had been using these drugs to battle chronic fatigue and insomnia, particularly in preparation for his 50-date comeback tour at London’s O2 Arena.
This wasn’t a short addiction, however, with claims that MJ relied on painkillers throughout most of his life. Throughout his ongoing wrongful death lawsuit, it was revealed that Michael was a “quite extensive” drug addict during the last 15 years of his life.
4. Whitney Houston
Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, prescription pills
Recovered? Died in 2012
The woman with the golden voice drowned in her bathtub in 2011 after a heavy use of cocaine. Although Whitney Houston’s death was accidental, coroners reported that a mixture of cocaine and 12 different types of prescription drugs were to blame for her passing.
The superstar had battled with drugs throughout her entire career, which received widespread media coverage. Whitney admitted to using alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and pills, especially during her controversial relationship with singer, Bobby Brown. In a 2009 interview with Oprah, she revealed that during the height of her career:
“[Doing drugs] was an everyday thing … I wasn’t happy by that point in time. I was losing myself.”
Although Whitney enrolled in rehabilitation centers multiple times, it seems her struggles with drugs and alcohol got the best of her.
Substances: Alcohol, vicodin, oxycodone
Sober: Since 2011
Without realizing it, singer and songwriter Sia became a heavy drinker and an addict to Vicodin and Oxycodone. She blames this dependence on her struggles as an artist, but as she found the strength to sober up, she also developed her stage persona and rise to stardom. She disclosed on The Late Late Show:
“I was a singer already for like 10 or 11 years to mediocre success, and I was an alcoholic and a drug addict, and I sobered up and decided I didn’t want to be an artist anymore…I was starting to get a little bit famous and it was destabilizing in some ways…so I thought, ‘What doesn’t exist in pop music at the moment?’ and it was mystery.”
Now, Sia celebrates nine years sober along with her success as an artist.
Find out more about the singer in our list of facts about Sia!
6. Daniel Radcliffe
Sober: 2 years in 2010 & 7 years in 2020
He may be the young boy who played Harry Potter, but unfortunately, finding stardom at such a young age found Daniel Radcliffe excessively drinking. The actor even admitted that he was regularly intoxicated during the filming of the last three Harry Potter movies. Daniel revealed in a podcast:
“I was pretty inconsolable on the last day of ‘Potter.’ I was really worried. I was living alone, and I think I was really freaked out … I drank a lot, as has been recorded.”
Although the actor admitted to “not being comfortable enough in who I was to remain sober”, since then, he’s spent a lot of time focusing on his wellness to stay off the booze.
There’s a fact about the Potter cast you didn’t see coming!
Recovered? Died in 2016
Another legend that was ruined by drugs was Prince, who reportedly died from an accidental fentanyl overdose. The icon was due to see a specialist in addiction the day after he died, but he was taken too soon.
What’s mostly disheartening about Prince’s addiction is that nobody knew he had it. The star concealed his dependency on pain pills for years, with only those closest to him having suspicions of an addiction.
Manuela Testolini, who was married to Prince from 2001 to 2006, revealed that he “was using narcotic pain pills during their marriage to manage pain.” Prince had suffered from severe hip pain.
Following his death, Prince’s family sued his doctor for prescribing him endless amounts of painkillers, suggesting that the doctor aided Prince’s addiction.
8. Heath Ledger
Substances: Oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, doxylamine
Recovered? Died in 2008
Shortly after filming for his iconic role as the Joker in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger passed away from an overdose of painkillers, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medication and other prescription drugs.
Heath’s father, Kim told News.Com.Au that his son did not have an addiction to opioids. Instead, the actor just made a tragic mistake on the night of his death.
“[He] mixed a couple of drugs together with sleeping tablets and he’s gone forever. That’s something we [himself, Kate and wife Sally] just have to deal with.”
The Oscar-winning actor who was at the peak of his career was found unconscious in his apartment at just 28-years-old. Many claim that his fragile state of mind after filming the Batman movie played a large role in his death. Others believe his troubles began when he split from his partner, Michelle Williams a few months earlier.
9. Demi Lovato
Substances: Alcohol, cocaine, oxycodone
Sober: 6 years in 2018 & 2 years in 2020
Demi Lovato has been in the public eye not only for her killer vocals, but also for her battle with drugs and alcohol. Having been in and out of rehab, Demi has struggled to stay off cocaine. In fact, the singer admits to first using the illegal substance when she was just 17-years-old.
Demi celebrated six years of sobriety in 2018 and told the crowd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York:
“Six years ago, I was drinking vodka out of a Sprite bottle at nine in the morning, throwing up in the car, so, I took a look at my life and I said, ‘Something has to change, I’ve got to get sober.’ So, I did.”
In mid-2018 however, the star relapsed and overdosed on oxycodone laced with fentanyl and ended up hospitalized. Since then, Demi has thankfully sworn to stay sober. She’s doing pretty well so far and is even a co-owner of a rehab facility.
Find out more about Demi’s troubled life in our list of facts about Demi Lovato!
10. Amy Winehouse
Substances: Alcohol, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine
Recovered? Died in 2011
Another star that was taken too soon was Amy Winehouse. The Rehab singer struggled throughout her entire career with alcohol and drug abuse. The legendary singer’s battles with heavy drinking and drug use was mostly attributed to the overwhelming media attention.
Amy relied on illegal drugs like heroin, ecstasy and cocaine, and even suffered an overdose from them on top of ketamine and alcohol. In several interviews, the singer admitted to having problems with depression and on multiple occasions, she was pictured or recorded drunk or high, with episodes of erratic behavior.
Although she went to rehab a few times, Amy Winehouse later died from alcohol poisoning at the age of 27.
11. Marilyn Monroe
Substances: Alcohol, sedatives, tranquilizers, opioids, speed, sleeping pills
Recovered? Died in 1962
It’s suspected that fashion icon Marilyn Monroe died by suicide from a drug overdose at the age of just 36. The Hollywood legend was found dead in her room surrounded by bottles of prescription pills, specifically those used to aid insomnia.
Marilyn’s life may have appeared glitzy and glamorous, but behind closed doors, she was suffering from depression, an overwhelming pressure from fame and substance abuse. Gone too soon.
12. Charlie Sheen
Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin
Sober: Since 2018
Charlie Sheen has always been known as the ‘bad boy’ of Hollywood, indulging in drugs and alcohol. The actor spent years addicted to marijuana, alcohol and cocaine and his drug habits were so bad that he once had a stroke after overdosing on cocaine.
Although he’s been in and out of rehab endless times, Charlie’s actually on the road to recovery now.
Having been sober for two years, Charlie swears to never fall down the black hole again. He says it’s his children who convinced him to stay sober:
“If you can’t be available for the basic necessity of being there for your children, then something really needs to shift. It was that next day that I said, ‘All right. It’s time. Let’s give this a shot.’ And then a month went by, a couple months went by, I’m [like], ‘Alright. This feels good. This feels good.'”
13. Zac Efron
Substances: Alcohol, cocaine
Sober: Since 2013
Growing up in the limelight wasn’t easy for Zac Efron. As he admitted in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he had every type of drug thrown at him in Hollywood and found himself enjoying illegal substances and alcohol.
“I was drinking a lot, way too much. It’s never one specific thing. I mean, you’re in your 20s, single, going through life in Hollywood, you know? Everything is thrown at you.”
After going to rehab for cocaine addiction and joining Alcoholics Anonymous, he’s more comfortable and has avoided any harmful substances since. However, Zac did admit that battling his addictions is a “never-ending struggle”.
14. Elvis Presley
Substances: Barbiturates, pethidine & other prescription drugs
Recovered? Died in 1977
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll also had a controversial death that was caused by a heavy mixture of prescription drugs including codeine. To protect his reputation at the time, Elvis Presley’s death was attributed to cardiac arrest, rather than the lethal combination of prescription drugs.
Like many other stars at the time, this combination seemed fairly normal and wasn’t suspected of triggering any harm on the body.
Throughout his life, Elvis was a long-time abuser of opiates in efforts to manage pain. However, the levels of opiates in his system at the time of his death were all too much on the singer’s health. Reports claim that the icon’s toxicology report included Dilaudid, Percodan, Demerol, codeine and Quaalude.
These stars weren’t always bad boys! Check out these innocent celebrity childhood photos!
15. Cory Monteith
Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, heroin
Recovered? Died in 2013
The Glee star had a tragic death from a mixture of heroin and alcohol at the young age of 31. Having suffered from addiction for his entire life, the actor had been to rehab twice during his teens as well as in 2013 – the year he passed, but couldn’t seem to get rid of the bad habit.
Cory was reportedly skipping school to get drunk and smoke pot by age 13 and continued from then on to abuse illegal substances.
In a 2011 interview with Parade and during a period of sobriety, Monteith discussed his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction:
“I really got to know myself through a lot of that self-destruction…I feel stable. I feel happy. I like myself. I love my job. It just so happens that I fell into doing something that I enjoy—the drums and the music and acting and all that stuff. I love it. I love it a lot.”
16. Ben Affleck
The Batman actor is also known for alcohol addiction and has been very open with his struggles. Having checked himself into rehab in 2001, Ben tried to stay on a straight and clean path. However, shortly after his divorce from actress, Jennifer Garner, Ben revealed that he had entered rehab again in 2017. The Hollywood star later relapsed in 2018, and was pictured in 2019 in an intoxicated state.
Ben revealed in 2020 that he suffers with both anxiety and depression and said he used alcohol to solve his feelings of “discomfort”.
“It took me a long time to fundamentally, deeply, without a hint of doubt, admit to myself that I am an alcoholic.”
The actor is currently following a twelve-step program to recover from alcoholism.
17. Lindsay Lohan
Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy
Sober: Since 2013
Being raised in the limelight was hard for Lindsay Lohan, causing her to turn to cocaine, ecstacy and alcohol as refuge. Her addiction was made very public, with multiple snapshots of the star drunk doing the rounds and being arrested several times for drunk driving and cocaine use.
After fixing her reputation as one of the biggest drinkers in Hollywood, Lindsay spoke about her struggles in an interview with Piers Morgan:
“I live without regrets. There are certain things I have done, mistakes that I made, that I would change, but I don’t regret them at all, because I’ve learned from them,”
After many run-ins with the law and three trips to rehab, Lindsay decided to step away from acting and found her healing space in Europe. During this time, she focused on new business endeavors and opened a chain of high-end clubs in Greece.
18. Matthew Perry
Substances: Alcohol, vicodin, amphetamines, methadone
Sober: Since 2001
On Friends, Matthew Perry may have come across as bubbly as Chandler Bing, but behind the scenes, he was struggling.
The actor struggled with alcohol during his prime years on day-time-TV and relied on painkillers following a watercraft accident.
It was during filming that Matthew found himself at the height of his addiction. In fact, he entered rehab twice during the show – in 1997 and again in 2001 for Vicodin, amphetamines, methadone, and alcohol addiction.
Shortly after however, Matthew sought recovery treatment. He told The Hollywood Reporter:
“The best thing about me is that if an alcoholic comes up to me and says, ‘Will you help me stop drinking?’ I will say, ‘Yes. I know how to do that.'”
19. Angelina Jolie
Substances: Heroin, LSD, cocaine
Sober: Since 2001
During the 90s rage, Angelina was popping drugs like Smarties. From cocaine to heroin, the superstar was addicted to it all throughout her teenage and young adult years.
Amidst the drug-taking, the Hollywood icon also suffered from depression and even planned suicide twice. It was the adoption of her first child, Maddox at 27 that helped her find stability. Angelina revealed to USA Today:
“I knew once I committed to Maddox, I would never be self-destructive again.”
Having moved on from those dark times, Jolie is grateful that she’s still standing, unlike many that have passed from similar behavior before her.
20. Robert Downey Jr
Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin
Sober: Since 2003
Robert Downey JR might be one of the world’s highest-paid actors, but his path to stardom hasn’t been squeaky clean. In fact, the world’s Iron Man first tried drugs at the age of six, due to his father’s addictions. Robert’s addiction then progressed into his teenage and adult years which included the abuse of alcohol, cocaine and heroin.
Robert found himself behind bars on numerous occasions on drug-related charges. He was publicly ruined by alcohol and drugs, giving him a bad reputation in Hollywood.
But like his Marvel character, Robert has managed to overcome his addiction. He entered a treatment facility in 2003, and finally put his reputation right before being cast as Iron Man. In 2014, he told Vanity Fair:
“Job one is get out of that cave. A lot of people do get out but don’t change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial of your fate…”
Substances: Crystal meth, ecstasy
Sober: Since 2000
Not many fans are aware of this Black Eyed Peas’ star’s rocky past. Fergie struggled with a drug addiction in the early 2000s and described it as “the hardest boyfriend I ever had to break up with”.
Having experimented with crystal meth and ecstasy, Fergie found herself in a very dark place and weighed only 40kg. She was “hallucinating on a daily basis,” thinking that the CIA and FBI were following her. The singer disclosed to British publication iNews:
“I remember thinking: ‘If I walk outside, and the SWAT team’s out there, I was right all along. But if they’re not out there, then it’s the drugs making me see things and I’m going to end up in an institution. And if it really is the drugs, I don’t want to live my life like this any more, anyway.’ I walked out of the church; obviously there was no SWAT team, it was just me in a parking lot. It was a freeing moment.”
Realizing she had a serious problem, the popstar did a lot of soul searching and used therapy to come clean again.
Substances: Vicodin, valium, xanax
Sober: Since 2008
Rapper Eminem had a longstanding addiction to prescription drugs, but it wasn’t until he was rushed to hospital in 2007 that he realized he had a serious problem. After being told that he’d taken an equivalent of four bags of heroin, Eminem decided that he wanted to choose to live and stay clean of any medication.
The rapper was reportedly abusing Vicodin, Valium and Xanax, and because he wasn’t “out there shooting heroin”, he didn’t feel “he had a problem with drugs”. In the documentary, How To Make Money Selling Drugs, Eminem spoke about his near-death experience from an overdose:
“My organs were shutting down. My liver, kidneys, everything… They didn’t think I was going to make it. My bottom was going to be death,”
Thankfully, the star celebrated 11 years of sobriety in April 2019.
23. Drew Barrymore
Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine
Sober: Since the 1980s
Drew Barrymore is hands-down, the youngest star to have ever entered rehab. Finding fame in E.T. at the age of six took a toll on the star and steered her to drinking by the age of 9. By 13, she was already addicted to coke and marijuana, which is when she decided that she needed serious help. Drew went to rehab and spent 18 months in an institution for the mentally ill.
In an interview with Today, Drew was asked if she missed cocaine:
“No. Oh, God, I mean, it’s been a very long time, but no. Nothing would make me have a panic attack and seem like a bigger nightmare. I never did hallucinogenics … but I drink and I enjoy my life and get out of my own head. It’s not like I’m this militant person of clarity and presence but (cocaine) literally seems like my worst nightmare right now…”
The Hollywood heartthrob has thankfully overcome her battles and is still focusing on her fruitful career as a movie star.
24. Russell Brand
Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin
Sober: Since 2002
Funnyman Russell Brand has been very open about his heroin and alcohol addiction. Katy Perry’s ex-husband has joked about his battle with substances during his standups, describing his first experience with heroin as “blissful”. The actor/comedian was arrested multiple times for incidents associated with drug use and it even affected his career. He told LA Times:
“I hit rock bottom in 2003 with an addiction to heroin, which had cost me a job at MTV, a radio show, friends and girlfriends. I’d been doing drugs since age 19 and was a heroin addict for four years.”
When Russell was caught by his agent doing heroin, he was immediately enrolled in a rehabilitation program for 12 weeks and has stayed sober since.
Having found help in spiritual healing, Russell now shares his wisdom with anyone that’s suffering from mental illness to alcoholism and addiction.
25. Mac Miller
Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, fentanyl, promethazine, codeine, cocaine
Sober: 3 months in 2016
Recovered? Died in 2018
Having endured hardship from drug addiction for a while, rapper Mac Miller died from an overdose in September 2018, aged 26. Ariana Grande’s ex-boyfriend’s untimely death was due to a “mixed drug toxicity” of fentanyl, cocaine, and alcohol.
Prior to his death, Mac had previously been arrested for drunk driving and openly spoke about his drug abuse, particularly about being stuck on promethazine and lean:
“I love lean; it’s great. I was not happy and I was on lean very heavy. I was so fu**ed up all the time it was bad. My friends couldn’t even look at me the same. I was lost.”
While he went through spells of sobriety, it turns out Mac just couldn’t shake his bad habits away.
While some of these stars have done a 360 and completely turned their lives around, others were consumed by their addiction, which sadly led to their passing.
This leaves us wondering if fame and fortune is really what it’s cracked up to be?
Do you think that fame gets too much to handle for some celebs? Let us know your thoughts by commenting in the section below…
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