Famous Actors and Actresses That Died of Drug Overdose

Marilyn Monroe

The actress died on August 5 in her L.A home naked in her bed with a telephone in her hand. There were empty prescription bottles used to treat depression around her room and the cause of death was ruled as a possible suicide.

She was being treated for her depression by a psychiatrist. She was reportedly a recluse in the last months of her life, and her maid was the one who found her body. There have been a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding her death due to the interesting life of the actress, including the fact that she had a notorious affair with President John F. Kennedy.

River Phoenix

Died of a heroin overdose while in the presence of his younger brother Joaquin in front of the trendy Viper Room.

Heath Ledger

The actor most famous for infamously playing The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight died on January 22 in his New York apartment from an overdose of prescription medication, painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs, and sleeping pills according to CNN.

The actor had a daughter with actress Michelle Williams who he was previously engaged to. “My heart is broken,” Williams said in a statement. “I am the mother of the most tender-hearted, high-spirited, beautiful little girl who is the spitting image of her father. All that I can cling to is his presence inside her that reveals itself every day. His family and I watch Matilda as she whispers to trees, hugs animals, and takes steps two at a time, and we know that he is with us still. She will be brought up in the best memories of him.”

Christopher Pettiet

You know him as Zach, the budding chef in “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.” He died of an accidental overdose in 2000.

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Judy Garland

Most known for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Judy was a movie sweetheart that you just couldn’t help but adore. She died on June 22 from an overdose in her London hotel. She was found by her fifth husband, Mickey Deans. At that point, the actress was 47 and her husband was trying to revive her career that had been over for some time. The medical examiner also found her to be malnourished and dehydrated, according to Examiner. When she had a contract with MGM she was given “pep pills” to suppress her appetite and keep up her energy, according to Biography. This was because the studio wanted her to lose weight. This along with the stress of fame may have started her addiction.

Mary Anissa Jones

Better known as Buffy from “Family Affair.” Drugs found in her system at the time of her death include Seconal, PCP, methaqualone and cocaine.

Lani O’Grady

The brainy and practical Mary on “Eight is Enough,” Lani died in 2001 at the age of 46 of “drug intoxication.” Found in her system at the time of her death were Vicodin and Prozac.

Chris Farley

The actor overdosed in 1997, December 18, after taking a speedball (a mixture of cocaine and morphine. The comedian was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for six years. He also branched out into movies with fellow comedians in Beverly Hills Ninja, Wayne’s World, and Coneheads. People loved him for being able to do impressive physical comedy despite his weight. During his last two years, he was struggling to get clean by going into rehab 17 times. He reportedly tried to change multiple times by going cold-turkey, trying drug purges, and even went to “fat farms.” The actor was close to 300 pounds, and although it was a big part of his act as a comedian, he reportedly was uncomfortable with not knowing whether people were laughing at him or with him.

Anna Nicole Smith

Died in 2007 of “combined drug intoxication.

Elvis Presley

Found dead in his bathroom in 1977 after overdosing on prescription drugs.

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Rodney Harvey

On the verge of being taken very seriously as an actor, Harvey died of a heroin overdose in 1998.

Nick Adams

Died of a drug overdose in 1968.

Nick Cantor

The Dirty Dancing actor died after injecting a shot of pure heroin in 1991.

Montgomery Clift

Died in 1966 at the age of 45 – the combined effects of drugs and alcohol.

Dorothy Dandridge

Died at age 46 of an antidepressant overdose.

W.C. Fields

Died as the result of a shot liver due to excessive alcohol abuse.

Robert Pastorelli

The Murphy Brown actor died of a drug overdose in 2004 at the age of 50.

Dana Plato

Died of a drug overdose in 1999 after taking Vicodin and Vanadam.

Edie Sedgwick

Died in 1971 after mixing alcohol and barbiturates.

Brad Renfro

Died of a heroin overdose in 2008.

Cory Monteith

The actor was found dead in a hotel room in British Colombia, Vancouver on July 13. His death was a result of a mixture of heroin and alcohol.

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Lisa Robin Kelly

The actress died from an accidental overdose in her sleep in the rehab center, Pax House LLC. After being found she was admitted into a hospital where her blood/alcohol reading came to .34, according to Daily Mail. She was struggling with her addiction for quite some time.

The actress did open up about her addiction through an appearance on Good Morning America. “I had lost a baby, as a result of that, I lost everything,” she said. “And I was abusing alcohol, which I no longer do. With the 70s show, I was guilty — of the drinking problem — and I ran. And I am not running from this. And I have paid my dues.”

John Berlushi

He also was on Saturday Night Live from 1975 to 1979 until he moved on to pursue a movie career.

The comedian was hanging out with Cathy Smith and Nelson Lyon at Chateau Marmont and reportedly ingesting liquor and cocaine according to Los Angeles Times. Lyon testified in grand jury proceedings that he heard Smith say to Belushi, “I have a big surprise for you. Roll up your sleeves.” She then injected him with what was apparently cocaine. Lyon also claims she injected both of them four more times that day. After that night of partying, Belushi was found dead the next morning.

“I put him to bed,” Smith allegedly told Lyon over the phone the next morning, “went in the living room to write a letter … He was breathing funny and I heard these noises.” She later continued, “I didn’t think anything was wrong … If he was in trouble I would have known what to do. But I didn’t think he was in any trouble. (So) I got in the car and I did some business and I came back and it was, you know, the place was — it was ‘Dragnet.’”

This changed the death from being ruled an accidental overdose to a first-degree murder charge. Smith was extradited from her home in Toronto to the United States and was eventually sentenced to prison for three years for manslaughter, according to Los Angeles Times.


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