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12 Musicians Lost to Drug Overdose

Drug Addiction Alexa Iocco | December 23, 2021

12 Musicians Lost to Drug Overdose

Drug and alcohol abuse are almost synonymous with rock n’ roll music. Much of the musician culture is centered around substance abuse and it is not uncommon to see news headlines about musicians checking into rehab. Unfortunately, high-profile recording artists don’t often live long, healthy lives, and it is mainly due to drug and alcohol addiction and overdoses.

The tragic phenomenon of celebrities succumbing to drug overdoses has underscored the profound challenges associated with addiction and mental health within the entertainment industry. High-profile individuals from various fields—music, acting, and beyond—have tragically lost their lives in this manner. These losses often bring to light the pressures of fame, the difficulty in accessing genuine support, and the complex relationship between public personas and personal struggles. Their stories have sparked conversations about the need for better mental health support, the dangers of substance abuse, and the importance of compassion and understanding in addressing these issues.

Addiction has become a deadly epidemic among recording artists, and it has happened for a number of reasons. Some deal with grueling schedules and rely on stimulants to keep their energy going day after day. Others deal with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety and rarely seek professional help, turning to drugs and alcohol to cope. The rock ‘n’ roll culture also encourages substance use, which for many leads to dependence.

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The deaths of musicians due to drug overdoses have highlighted the vulnerabilities and pressures that artists in the music industry often face. Substance abuse among musicians can stem from various factors, including the stress of fame, mental health issues, and the culture of drug use in some parts of the entertainment world. These tragic losses not only deprive the world of talented artists but also serve as sobering reminders of the need for mental health support and substance abuse prevention in the creative community.

Even before rock ‘n’ roll, drug use was prevalent in the music industry. Substance use and addiction do not discriminate based on genre and have taken hold of a wide variety of musicians. Sadly, we have lost a long list of talented musicians to drug and alcohol overdoses. Some others have slowly deteriorated as well due to their addiction. Here is a list of just some of the musicians whose lives and careers were cut short due to fatal drug overdose:

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Musicians Whose Careers Were Cut Short by Fatal Drug Overdose

1. Jim Morrison

Best known as the lead singer of The Doors, he is also infamous as one of many young musicians who died from a drug overdose. Jim Morrison had a long history of alcohol and substance abuse and was a leading cause of his death at the age of 27. Morrison had developed alcoholism throughout his career as a way of coping with traumatic events, depressive moods, and also because he felt it helped his creativity. By the time The Doors released their fourth album, drugs and alcohol had taken their toll on Morrison and his performances were affected. On the morning of July 3, 1971, a friend found Morrison dead in a tub at his apartment in Paris. There is controversy around his death since no autopsy was done and witness accounts say he accidentally overdosed on heroin thinking it was cocaine, his drug of choice.

2. Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix was a heavy drug user and especially abused LSD. For some days prior to his death, Hendrix had been in poor health due to fatigue from overwork, an influenza-related illness, and a chronic lack of sleep. On his final night, he had been out partying and consumed amphetamines. When he arrived back home, he took 18 times the recommended amount of sleeping pills. The next morning, he was found unresponsive and covered in vomit. On September 18, 1970, Hendrix passed away due to barbiturate-related asphyxia from his vomit at age 27.

3. Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin is also part of the 27 clubs, a notional “club” of famous musicians, actors, and artists who died at age 27, usually from a drug overdose. Joplin struggled with heroin addiction and tried to get sober several times. Unfortunately, on October 4, 1970, her road manager found her dead in her hotel room from an accidental heroin overdose.

4. Billie Holiday

She is one of the most influential jazz singers in American history, but her life was plagued with drug and alcohol abuse. As a child and teenager, she had been raped multiple times and used alcohol and drugs to self-medicate the pain from trauma. Her first husband introduced her to opium which developed into a heroin problem. She attempted rehab a few times, but her sobriety never lasted long. In 1959 she collapsed and was taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with very advanced liver cancer and also went into heroin withdrawals. She died shortly after as a result of alcohol-and-drug-related complications.

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5. Judy Garland

Judy Garland was found dead in her bathroom on June 22, 1969, at the age of 47. Her autopsy revealed she had died from an accidental overdose of barbiturates. But years before her death, she had struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. From an early age, she struggled with mental health issues due to the pressures of early stardom. She was given pills to keep her energetic and thin during the filming of Wizard of Oz and sleeping pills at night. She struggles with substance abuse for the remainder of her life through a long career in film and music.

6. Bon Scott

Bon Scott is best known as the lead vocalist and lyricist for AC/DC from 1974 until his death in 1980. Scott had always been a heavy drinker, even for rockstar standards. On February 19 he met friends at a music club in London and drank heavily before climbing into the back of a friend’s car to sleep it off. The next day, friends found him hunched over covered in vomit, and was believed to have died from asphyxiation due to his vomit traveling into his lungs.

7. Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain was the lead singer of Nirvana and battled with drug addiction for most of his life. According to a family member, Cobain had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had a painful digestive disorder, which he used heroin to relieve the pain. He went to drug rehab in 1992 but relapsed and survived several heroin overdoses over the next few years. This is when he began having suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Right before his death, he left a detox center and flew back to Seattle. Cobain was found dead in his home from a shotgun wound and an autopsy found heroin and valium in his system. He was only 27 years old.

8. Michael Jackson

12 musicians lost to drug overdose

Michael Jackson passed away on June 25, 2009, from cardiac arrest due to a propofol overdose that was administered by his personal physician. Many believed Michael Jackson had been struggling with an addiction to pain medicines since his scalp injury during a fire and cosmetic surgeries. His death was ruled a homicide after investigations found that his doctor had been administering propofol, a powerful surgical anesthetic, for 60 days in a row to combat his insomnia. The coroner found lethal levels of the drug in his system.

9. Amy Winehouse

Another young singer to die at the age of 27 from substance abuse, Amy Winehouse had struggled even before she became famous for alcohol addiction. Later on, she dabbled in hard drugs like heroin and crack cocaine and continued to use alcohol to numb her mental health issues. On July 23, 2011, she passed away from alcohol poisoning.

10.  Whitney Houston

Incredible vocalist and pop star, Whitney Houston had a long history with drug use, due to pressures of fame, a history of sexual abuse, and enablement from people around her. Her addiction was very public and want to treatment for it at least three times. In February 2012, Houston was found unconscious, face down in a bathtub at the age of 48. An autopsy revealed she had Xanax, Benadryl, marijuana, the muscle relaxant Flexeril, and cocaine in her system, which led to her drowning in her bathtub.

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11.  Prince

For many who knew Price personally, his death was especially ironic, since he was very anti-drug from his teen years on and wouldn’t tolerate drug use by his band members. During the 80s though, he recreationally did hallucinogens and ecstasy. His concert injuries caused him to be in constant pain and led him to start taking pain pills, which led to opiate use. Prince died on April 21, 2016, at 57 due to a fentanyl overdose.

12.  DMX

The famous rapper spent time in and out of treatment facilities several times over the years and had been very open about his struggles with addiction. He very much wanted to get sober, but like many in recovery know, it is not an easy journey, and relapses easily happen. On April 2nd, 2021, DMX suffered a heart attack from a drug overdose and was hospitalized, dying a few days later at age 50. His autopsy revealed he had crack cocaine, fentanyl, alcohol, and prescription drugs in his system, as well as showing he had Covid-19.

Drug and Alcohol Rehab at Resurgence Behavioral Health

Many of these musicians and others who passed away from drug and alcohol-related issues, may still be alive today if they received better addiction help. A proper program that addressed their underlying issues and taught better coping mechanisms to handle the stresses of a musical career.

At Resurgence Behavioral Health, a team of addiction specialists offers a full continuum of care with the most up-to-date evidence-based addiction treatment programs. We support clients no matter where they are in their recovery journey and customize treatments for each unique client. Our treatments also address trauma and co-occurring disorders to get to the core of addiction.

Our clients leave our rehabilitation center with new tools to better cope and manage their negative emotions. We offer a welcoming environment with programs that include individual therapy, peer group counseling, and holistic treatments. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, please give us a call today. One of our addiction specialists will gladly help you get started on the road to recovery.

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