The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that substance abuse, including alcohol, tobacco, prescription drug abuse and illegal substances, costs the United States over 700 billion dollars per year in lost work productivity, criminal activities and health care expenses. While some media outlets like to portray addicts as being disadvantaged members of society, homeless or mentally ill, the truth remains that addiction can impact people of all socioeconomic standing.
10 Famous Addicts From The Last 50 Years
Throughout history, many famous men and women have fallen victim to substance abuse to help them navigate the busy and troubled waters of fame and fortune. Sadly, many of these affluent careers have been brought to a halt because of drug or alcohol problems, while others managed to get help and recover their lives and careers. Here is a list of ten out of hundreds of those who faced a struggle with substance abuse or addiction:
10. Stephen King
Known for his horror novels, King has turned his penchant for the macabre into an international best-selling career than has spanned four decades. In the late 1980s, his wife Tabitha staged an intervention. She dumped out his trash to reveal his substance issues, including:
- spoons and vials used for cocaine
- Valium and Xanax bottles
- empty bottles of cold remedies such as Robitussin and NyQuil
- bottles of mouthwash, which he drank for the alcohol content
The prized novelist sought help, is now substance-free and continues to churn out bestsellers.
9. Michael Jackson
Raised by a demanding, abusive father, Jackson’s life and death has been inextricably linked to his abuse of prescription drugs. Despite this, he is considered to be the most decorated and award-winning entertainer of modern times. He sought inpatient rehabilitation in 1993 for an opiate addiction. He died in 2009 from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
8. Syd Barrett
Syd Barrett was a founding member of Pink Floyd, a band hailed as a foundation of the progressive rock and psychedelic genres. Barrett, who already suffered from mental illness, developed a problem with LSD. Unable to conquer his demons, Barrett withdrew from music after only a ten-year career. He died a recluse at the age of 60 from diabetes complications, having never been able to return to music.
7. Johnny Depp
Depp is lauded as one of the world’s top-earning and most-decorated movie stars, and is quite candid regarding his excessive drinking and experimentation with drugs in the past. Now sober, Depp denies he was ever addicted, choosing instead to say that he was self-medicating. Regardless of the true nature of his issues, Depp’s family staged an intervention and he has since put his drinking and using behind him entirely.
6. Robin Williams
Comedian and actor Robin Williams was quite open about his struggles with alcoholism and cocaine abuse in the late seventies and early eighties. The death of friend and fellow actor John Belushi was Williams’ ‘wake up call.’ Williams got clean, but then suffered an alcohol relapse in 2003. In 2006, he entered rehab. Williams committed suicide in the summer of 2014, his sobriety intact.
5. Angelina Jolie
Married to fellow actor Brad Pitt and mother to six children, Jolie admits to having tried everything from LSD to heroin in her younger years, in addition to suffering from an eating disorder, self-harming and battling depression. After a suicide attempt, Jolie adopted a young boy named Maddox and knew she could never again be self-destructive. Now sober, Jolie focuses on acting, motherhood and humanitarian causes.
4. Marshall Mathers
Commonly known by his stage names Eminem or Slim Shady, Mathers battled an addiction to prescription drugs such as Xanax, Vicodin and methadone for years before finally ending up in the hospital close to death. Terrified that his addiction would leave his daughter without a father, he sought rehab. Fellow musician Elton John served as a sounding board, calling Mathers weekly to check on him. Today, Mathers is still topping the hip-hop charts and is substance-free.
3. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr
While artists, actors and musicians are outed as drug addicts with impunity, professionals in more conservative circles are not immune from the lure of drugs. A Harvard graduate and attorney, Kennedy was cited for possession of heroin in 1983 and ordered to attend rehab and complete community service. Having put his drug use behind him, Kennedy continues to author political books and speak out concerning matters of law.
2. Elvis Presley
The King of Rock and Roll died at only 42 years of age, overweight and hopelessly ensnared in drug addictions. He abused prescription medication and cut short what had been an enormously successful career as both a singer and actor. While many of the details surrounding his death are hazy, addiction doubtless played a role in his untimely death.
1. Mel Gibson
Once a box-office darling, Mel Gibson is still in the process of rebuilding his career after his alcoholism became front-page tabloid fodder. In a series of drunken rages, Gibson has used anti-Semitic slurs, cursed at fellow actors and acted terribly. Now sober, he is quietly re-entering Hollywood with plans to possibly act again as well as work behind the camera as a producer or director. Unlike addicts who simply act silly or irresponsible while under the influence, Gibson’s belligerence and confrontational issues while drinking make his road to re-acceptable more difficult.
Addiction knows no boundaries. Being rich, famous and successful doesn’t protect anyone from the clutches of addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, seek treatment as soon as possible.
Fame and wealth clearly will not protect a person from making the wrong choices in life, but in the case of movie stars, recording artists, etc., they are often faced with temptation more often than the average person might be. For those that turned their lives around, their admiring fans can learn a valuable lesson. Sadly, those who continue with their drug and alcohol pursuits are setting a poor example for thousands upon thousands of impressionable young people today.