Numerous celebrities have struggled with heroin addiction. For this reason, many young people often romanticize drug use and fail to see its negative consequences. But some famous heroin users ultimately lost their lives. Others have managed to recover and share their stories of hope with their fans. You can read about some of them below.
This Canadian actor and musician was famous for his role as Finn Hudson on the Fox television show Glee. Monteith struggled with substance abuse since the age of 13. His drug use was constantly getting him into trouble, and he ended up going to more than 12 schools by the age of 16. He first entered rehab at the age of 19. Then, after another intervention from his costars on Glee in March 2013, he re-entered rehab and completed it in April, only to ultimately pass away in July from a toxic combination of heroin and alcohol.1,12
The British actor, comedian, and activist publicly speaks about his struggles with heroin addiction, as well as advocates for policy change for drug abuse. He made a documentary for BBC Three television network titled Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery. In this documentary, Brand discusses his personal battles with addiction and how the death of his friend Amy Winehouse inspired him to explore the condition. Brand believes that addiction is a misunderstood disease that should be treated rather than criminalized. Just recently he released an addiction guidebook titled Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions.2
The lead singer of the band Red Hot Chili Peppers, Anthony Kiedis is well known for his struggles with substance abuse, particularly heroin and cocaine. Kiedis grew up surrounded by drugs and alcohol and used marijuana and cocaine with his father. His heavy drug use during the early years of the Red Hot Chili Peppers caused the band to temporarily replace him. He reports being clean and sober since 2000. The famous Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Under the Bridge” is based on a poem he wrote about his heroin addiction.3
Kurt Cobain was an American musician and founder of the ’90s grunge band Nirvana. He died of suicide in 1994 after shooting himself with a 20-gauge shotgun. Large amounts of heroin and traces of Valium were found in his bloodstream. Despite his fame and success, or perhaps in part because of it, he struggled with chronic drug use and depression for many years. A week prior to his suicide, he spent 2 days in the Exodus Recovery Center, before escaping by jumping over the center’s 6-foot fence.4
Robert Downey Jr.
This American actor is famous for his leading roles in Ironman as well as many other films. However, Downey struggled with heroin and cocaine addiction for more than a decade. His erratic, drug-induced behavior during that time was widely publicized. He famously woke up in an 11-year-old neighbor’s bed in 1996; he was also arrested on another occasion for impaired driving while naked and hallucinating. He has spent time in prison and was fired from his role on Ally McBeal due to his substance abuse. In 2005, he entered therapy and began attending 12-step meetings. He also credits meditation and martial arts for helping him overcome his drug addiction.5
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Miles Davis is perhaps one of the most famous jazz musicians of all time. Yet he is also known for his polysubstance abuse. He reports a relationship with heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and other illicit and prescription drugs spanning many years of his life. His substance abuse destroyed his health, relationships, and negatively impacted his musical career. Fortunately, he eventually found sobriety, crediting boxer Sugar Ray Robinson for his inspiration to get clean.6,13
Nicole Richie, the American TV personality and daughter of musician Lionel Richie, has spoken publicly about her addiction to both heroin and cocaine. She reports that boredom led her to drug use. Because everything always came so easily to her, she found a need to create drama. Her partying lifestyle led to heroin addiction in her early twenties, but she told People she has been clean for several years.7
Angelina Jolie, the famous actress, mother, and ex-wife of Brad Pitt, has admitted to difficulties with drugs and alcohol in the past, but declined to go into much detail. She told 60 minutes, “I went through heavy, darker times and I survived them. I didn’t die young, so I’m very lucky.” In 2014, a leaked video of her allegedly under the influence of heroin made its way onto the Internet. Franklin Meyer, the man who posted the video, claims that he used to sell her cocaine and heroin 2 or 3 times a week for years.8,9
This popular American rock singer of the 1960s died at the age of 27 from a heroin overdose while at the height of her musical career. Janis also struggled with amphetamine addiction and frequently drank alcohol and took other drugs.10
Well known for his role on Saturday Night Live, Chris Farley was an American actor and comedian who died of an overdose combination of cocaine and morphine at the age of 33. He was found dead after a 4-day alcohol and drug binge. While he reportedly said he wanted to “live fast and die young,” he did make several efforts to get clean. He was in and out of rehab more than 17 times before he died, but struggled to maintain long-term sobriety.11 He was known to abuse heroin, and police found a foil packet containing a white powder under his body when he died.14
- Eggenberger, N. (2013). Cory Monteith’s Drug Abuse. “He Was Not a Typical Addict”. US Weekly.
- BBC. (2013). Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery.
- Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere. (N.D.). Anthony Kiedis: The Wild Child.
- Strauss. N. (1994). Kurt Kobains Downward Spiral: The Last Days of Nirvana’s Leader. Rolling Stone.
- Scott, Paul. (2013).From Washed-Up Drug Addict to the $100m Man: How Iron Man Star Robert Downey Jr. Turned his Life Around from Prison and Cocaine. Daily Mail.
- Feather, L. (1989). An Ugly Jazz Story: MILES The Autobiography by Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe. Los Angeles Times.
- Silverman, S. (2007). Nicole Richie: Boredom Led to Drug Use. People.
- Finn, N. (2011). Angeline Jolie: Very Lucky “I Didn’t Die Young.”E News.
- Dodge, Shyam. (2014). Haunting video of Angelina Jolie the heroin addict. Daily Mail.
- Biography. Janis Joplin.
- Nashawaty, Chris. Chris Farley’s sad, drug-fueled final days. Entertainment Weekly.
- McAfee, T. (2013). Cory Monteith’s ‘Glee’ Intervention: How The Cast Tried To Save Him. Hollywood Life.
- Davis, M., and Troupe, Q. (1990).Miles: The Autobiography.
- Hedegaard, E. (1998). Chris Farley: The Wild Ride and Sad End. Rolling Stone.