Addiction is a battle we see every day sprawled across our television & movie screens, social media feeds, and splashed all over the tabloids. Celebrities are at the forefront of it all, being the poster children for both the good and the bad outcomes of addiction. We all have heard stories of a celebrity who has made it through addiction and is continuously working on their sobriety, but we also have heard those sad tales of those who were lost too soon.
There are, unfortunately, many celebrities, whether they be actors, singers, or athletes, who have struggled with addiction. With fame, fortune, connections, and ease of access, all at their fingertips, it’s not hard to understand how these celebrities fall into these habits. But a lot of them, were able to come out on top.
Child actor, River Phoenix, life was tragically cut short. River began his acting career at ten, and by sixteen he was starring in the role he would become most known for, Stand by Me. In addition to his acting, River was also a dedicated activist and musician. On October 30th, 1993, River was planning to perform with the band ‘P’ at the infamous Viper Club in Los Angeles. He was with some friends (which included Flea and Johnny Depp), as well as his siblings. At one point during the night, River mentioned he wasn’t feeling well and said how he thought he may have overdosed.
He had already been high upon arrival and indulged in the cocaine being passed around once he got there. He thought he was feeling better since he was still walking and talking, but once he left the club he collapsed on the sidewalk and started convulsing. He was becoming cyanotic, in cardiac arrest and asystole. River was still alive by the time he got to the hospital, but after several unsuccessful resuscitate attempts, he was pronounced dead at the age of 23, early the following morning. According to River’s girlfriend, she thought he had been sober during their times together, only very shortly before the Viper Room tragedy, she did notice he was acting differently. It was heroin that made him lose his battle with addiction.
Robert Downey Jr.
You know him best as Iron Man, but Robert Downey Jr. has come a long way since his youth. Another child actor with destructive parents to add to the list, Robert got into show business at the age of five with his famous father. His father even allowed him to have marijuana at the age of six. As he grew up, he made quite a name for himself as an actor, even garnering an Academy Award nomination. However, his active drug and alcohol addiction was no secret. He was arrested in 1998 for the possession of heroin and cocaine and was arrested multiple times after that, going in and out of jail.
Unfortunately, this didn’t stop him from his continued use of drugs and alcohol. At one point, he even wandered into someone’s house and fell asleep in their bed. After missing multiple court-ordered drug tests, in 1999 he was sentenced to three years in prison but ended up serving one year in a facility treatment/prison instead. Even after that, Robert was arrested again for substance abuse in 2001 and ended up getting fired from his television show, film roles, and stage jobs. Once again, the actor was sent back to rehab.
In 2003, Robert quit drugs for good at the behest of his wife Susan. He credits his recovery to a combination of the 12-step program, yoga, meditation, and therapy. However, because of his history with drugs and alcohol, it was extremely difficult for Robert to find work in film due to the extremely high insurance bonds required to have him on set. Eventually, Mel Gibson personally underwrote his liability insurance for a movie in 2003 and it’s been all uphill from there.
Another child star, Demi Lovato started her career on Barney & Friends in 2002. She quickly rose to fame as a television star on the Disney Channel and became an icon for young kids everywhere. As a Disney star, she also made her way into the music industry and focused her efforts on that. Over time, Demi has suffered from bipolar disorder, anorexia, and self-harm. Being in the industry at a young age caused Demi to be bullied often, which did not help her, and she ended up entering rehab at eighteen.
Demi entered treatment for physical and emotional issues. She admitted that she had bulimia, cut herself, and had been “self-medicating” with drugs and alcohol, including smuggling and using cocaine. It was around this time that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In 2012, MTV even aired a documentary about her rehab experiences and her recovery. In 2013, Demi was living in a sober-living facility to keep her on track with her recovery. Demi has admitted that not every rehab stint worked, in fact, she was even under the influence of cocaine while being interviewed about her sobriety. Her addictions caused her to overdose multiple times and affected her ability to perform her music.
In March 2018, Demi celebrated six years of sobriety, only to relapse in June. She was rushed to the hospital due to an opioid overdose, oxycodone laced with fentanyl. She later announced in 2020 that her overdose was due to her worsened struggle with bulimia, controlling management, and being overall unhappy. Demi is currently working on her sobriety every day, while also working on music promoting her self-worth, as well as music to bring positive (but honest) messages to her fans.
As if her own lyrics could tell the future, the Rehab singer would sadly join the 27 Club due to her addiction to alcohol. Amy Winehouse is known for her eclectic music, mixing soul, blues, and jazz. Amy joined the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in her youth and then started her record career in 2002. In 2006, her album Back to Black became an international best-seller and her song Rehab won her a Grammy.
However, her song spoke to her not so hidden battle with drug and alcohol addiction. Her relationship with her husband, Blake Fiedler-Civil, was a dangerous one. She had stated that she could be violent after drinking and hurt him. Not only was she violent with him, but she had also attacked a fan and her husband in the past. Both Blake and Amy’s parents would worry that they would both commit suicide. Blake introduced Amy to crack cocaine and heroin and they would sometimes cut themselves. Eventually, Blake was sent to prison and Amy fell in love with someone new, stating that her marriage to Blake was strictly based on doing drugs.
Sadly, Amy’s substance abuse was one of the things she was most known for. In 2005, she was known for her heavy drinking, drug use, and weight loss. The loss of her grandmother furthered her path into addiction. In 2007, she was hospitalized for an overdose of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine, and alcohol. Amy had stated that she thought she was manic depressive and not an alcoholic. In that same year, she was admitted into a physician-supervised program. Her father moved in with her to help with her recovery, only for her to be entered into a two-week treatment program early the next year. In 2010, she had decided to quit drugs, but that triggered alcohol abuse.
On top of all that, Amy’s father had stated that she had emphysema, with her lungs operating at a lower rate than normal and an irregular heartbeat. He also said that this was worsened with her chain-smoking crack cocaine. Sadly, on July 23, 2011, Amy died of alcohol poisoning at 27. The coroner’s report stated that her blood alcohol content was more than five times the legal drink and drive limit.