21 Actors Who Died of Drug or Alcohol Overdoses

There’s nothing glamorous about drug use, as most of us realize eventually. You may have heard stories about famous people who use drugs to party or get through life, but many of them sadly end up dying before their time.

Still not convinced?

Here is a list of actors and actresses who died of drug overdoses.

  1. Marilyn Monroe – Her death, due to an overdose of sleeping pills, was ruled as a “possible” suicide.
  2. John Belushi – Died in 1982 after injecting a speedball – a mixture of cocaine and heroin.
  3. River Phoenix – Died of a heroin overdose while in the presence of his younger brother Joaquin in front of the trendy Viper Room.
  4. Heath Ledger – Died of an accidental prescription pill overdose.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Lani O’Grady – You remember her as 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.
  8. Chris Farley – Overdosed in 1997 after taking a speedball.
  9. Judy Garland – Died in 1969 of an overdose of barbiturates.
  10. Anna Nicole Smith – Died in 2007 of “combined drug intoxication.”
  11. Elvis Presley – Found dead in his bathroom in 1977 after overdosing on prescription drugs.
  12. Rodney Harvey – On the verge of being taken very seriously as an actor, Harvey died of a heroin overdose in 1998.
  13. Nick Adams – Died of a drug overdose in 1968.
  14. Nick Cantor – The Dirty Dancing actor died after injecting a shot of pure heroin in 1991.
  15. Montgomery Clift – Died in 1966 at the age of 45 – the combined effects of drugs and alcohol.
  16. Dorothy Dandridge – Died at age 46 of an antidepressant overdose.
  17. W.C. Fields – Died as the result of a shot liver due to excessive alcohol abuse.
  18. Robert Pastorelli – The Murphy Brown actor died of a drug overdose in 2004 at the age of 50.
  19. Dana Plato – Died of a drug overdose in 1999 after taking Vicodin and Vanadam.
  20. Edie Sedgwick – Died in 1971 after mixing alcohol and barbiturates.
  21. Brad Renfro – Died of a heroin overdose in 2008.

Drug abuse is always dangerous, and it’s important to seek help before the worst happens.

Can you think of any we have missed? Please add your suggestions in the comments …

Wendy Lee Nentwig

By Wendy Lee Nentwig
Guest Contributor

Articles posted here are primarily educational and may not directly reflect the offerings at The Canyon. For more specific information on programs at The Canyon, contact us today.

48 Responses

  1. jennifer January 9, 2009

    Janis Joplin Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrisson died from herion overdose all at the age of 27

    Brad Nowell of sublime died may 25 1996 of herion overdose at age 28

    • Andy August 13, 2011

      Jimi, Janis and Jim (all musicians, not actors) did indeed die as a result of complications with drugs. But only Janis died of a heroin overdose. Jimi died as a result of taking a legal prescription medication (though it had been prescribed to another person) Jim Morison’s death is generally attributed to the enormous wear and tear alcohol put on his system, and not a specific overdose. He was not known to have serious problems with drugs other than alcohol.

    • Tony August 26, 2011

      I believe Joplin died of alcohol poisoning, her drug of choice. As for Morrison, they may have found heroin in his system, but he went down on a death cocktail; “A little of this, a pinch of that, some more of the blue ones, I like the blue ones…”

      My point is Layne Staley from Alice in Chains died of heroin, Kurt Cobain would’ve if he hadn’t sped up the dying process with a shotgun, God rest them all.

      Heroin isn’t the great evil everyone thinks, in fact it’s one of the easiest drugs to kick with medical help. Wanting… and getting… that help, without a rockstar’s budget is another story.

  2. april February 3, 2009

    I have one other person that I just found out that died of a overdose and that is Shirley Temple.

    • Tina March 23, 2011

      Shirley Temple is not even dead!

      • Valeria W. April 5, 2011

        That’s why she’s not on the list!

      • Early April 13, 2011

        YMMD with that anrswe! TX

    • Sarah October 25, 2011

      Shirley Temple is still alive.

      • sarah February 17, 2012

        a lot of people have died by drugs and alcohol and whitney Houston died like that im really sad about that and her daughter is now on drugs and alcohol too.

  3. Fawn February 18, 2009

    Glenn Quinn played Mark Healy on “Roseanne”. Died December 3, 2002 of a heroin overdose.

  4. rosie March 4, 2009

    Glenn Quinn age 32, died of herion overdose. he starred on Rosanne as Mark, and on Angel.

  5. Linda April 23, 2009

    Shirley Temple is still alive as far as I can tell.

  6. William September 16, 2009

    shirley temple isnt dead she is still alive dude

  7. CherryvilleLady January 18, 2010

    This is nice to remember movie stars and singers and such, but what about everyday people? We all have friends that meet untimly deaths due to drugs or alchol. We don’t like to talk about it, but it’s with us just the same.

    • Pam July 24, 2011

      Millions of everyday people suffer from this horrible disease and I am one of them. I treat it by not using and my life is so much better. You lose when you abuse.

  8. chris February 28, 2010

    My name is chris and I can say by far I was and am a worse addict than all these people ever were and don’t know how I am still alive. I have to thank God, and say now that I’m tryn to live clean its the hardest thing ever an everyday struggle. If anyone needs to talk u know where to find me bonez733@gmail.com

  9. Bruno March 22, 2010

    Plenty of idiots we got in the show business???

  10. Lawanza May 11, 2010

    eddie guerrero didn’t die from drug overdose he died from heart failure. chris benoit is the one that died from taking steroids

    • jessica January 25, 2011

      I thought Chris Benoit killed his family, then killed himslef..

  11. Adrienne Bevington October 19, 2010

    ITS TOO BAD THAT ALL THESE PEOPLE HAVE DIED. its also too bad that they didnt get help when they could have gotten it.Its all so very sad. If people want to revere this actors and celebrities as their role models, they should see them as human and they can die just as easily as we can.We should also realize that we should live the crazy party life that some people,because it can mean a dead end..

  12. Adrienne Bevington October 19, 2010

    If we are going to revere these celebrities as role models then we should realize that partying and messing with drugs can kill them just as fast as it could all kill us! Its too bad that these people died.If theyd gotten help,then maybe theyd be around to tell us to just say no!

  13. sucracristo January 28, 2011

    actor and former nfl player lyle alzado died from decades of steroid abuse.
    corey haim- mix of prescription and illicit drugs
    richard burton-alchohol
    margeaux hemingway-heroin
    bruce lee had an cerebral edema due to bad reaction to prescription drugs

  14. Robert Pace February 22, 2011

    Michael Jackson. Propofol use to sleep

  15. Jonny Stewart April 30, 2011

    Dee dee Ramone (bassist of punk rock band the Ramones)
    Johnny Thunders (guitarist and singer)
    Sid Vicious (bassist of punk band the Sex Pistols)
    Phil Lynott (vocalist of rock n roll band Thin Lizzy)
    ALL died of heroin overdoses.
    Keith Moon (drummer of rock n roll band The Who) died of an overdose of prescription drugs.

  16. DV June 23, 2011

    Are you guys thick? It says “ACTORS”. More brain dead saps commenting than in the list..

  17. Nicholas August 12, 2011

    Bye Amy Winehouse, dead at the young age of 27 from drug overdose (ecstasy). The world could have used you around for a lot longer…

    • Lee March 16, 2013

      Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning so the coroner reported, I used heroin for 16 years (kicked it
      6 years ago) and as she was in my mind still an addict of some kind (probably heroin or crack definately drink) when she died but ecstacy no. I would also like to comment about the qoute made by Tony on August 26 2011 “Heroin is not the evil everyone thinks it is” how long did you use for? As it took me 10 attempts at least to kick it, I finally did it with 3 yrs of prescription methadone as it took that long to deal with the mental side of not using. Have you never heard someone say “getting off it is the easy part but staying off it is the hard part”. Also how can having money make it any easier? I believe if I was rich I probably never would of kicked it, it was only due to the fact of thinking of what I had done to close relatives and who I had hurt in my need for money that made me quit, also being away from my family all the time and in prison did not help. Rich people never have to worry about where their next fix is coming from or think of the people they have harmed as they have money and the only person they hurt is themselve (you dont see many rockstars go to prison either.) My qoute for you Tony is “heroin is not evil, it is Satan himself” Furthermore what kind of message are you sending out to kids who have read your qoute. If anyone reads what Tony said please do not listen to a word of it, as Heroin is by far the worse drug on the planet and by far the hardest to kick. By the way Amy Winehouse was the person I would have liked to meet with most in the world and she definately would not have agreed with you. Sorry Nicholas I have used your post to reply to what Tony typed but I did not see any point in replying to him as he just talks toffee. .

  18. Marie November 3, 2011

    I don’t do drugs nor alcohol, and i am rally wishing to just die.
    Zero suicidal, i am just very gifted as many say, clarivoyance, guidance for all, and more… I am just not liking this games of líes, manipulations, robery in desguise or accepted for so many that is exahusticve to try changing it, and we do work a lot to make changes. The irony i see in life is, humans want to be joyful, contente, happy and not to be lied to nor beeing a constant actor in their own lives, and yet, many feel they cant and they have to jet in the games if not, ow to suceed.

    all this and so much more to just share, to say i am not asking you to agree nor change … but i did Camerún to this site to find out, what drugs did Heath Ledger uses to just “leave”!!!!

    I do feel that some of them just wanted to leave !


    • Lee March 16, 2013

      I hope you did not go through with what you intended, I am reading this in 2013 and I found your post rather sad. I hope things in your life have improved and I wish you well. I am sorry no one picked up on the way you felt at the time and bothered to reply, they were more worried about which star died and how. Please could you get back to me as I pray you are still fit and ablel.

  19. john c. November 16, 2011

    Brain Dead, who’s Brain dead.Contrary to popular belief, Michael Jackson was also an Actor.

  20. SuZ Ajolie December 9, 2011

    Just want to mention a very depressed Vickie Lynn Marshall also known as Anna-Nicole Smith died of a mixture of prescription drugs where the drug chloral hydrate was the most lethal one. If she only would have taken that to be able to sleep she would probably be alive ,but a combination with benzos chloral hydrate is lethal, and you have to remember that when you take a drug…the one drug is not just one….it has metabolites that also are active medicines and lethal in combination in this case with chloral hydrate which actually should be forbidden in the US, because no patient is informed when prescribed medicines that one can die if you combine with certain other prescription drugs, and not always they have to be prescribed ones.And how many doctors tell you that the medicine he or she just prescribed to you actually are 7 medicines, and when I say that I mean metabolites. For those who do not know what a metabolite is, i will explain. When you put a pill in your mouth it starts to change immediately because of all enzyms,chemicals and acids that we have in our body. The word metabolite is connected with the word metabolism. Most new medicines we have are made of secondary metabolites etc. And I have done some research lately about metabolites, but also other medicines for example chloral hydrate which is totally forbidden here in Sweden….I WONDER WHY? Anyway…many “mysterious” deaths have involved just chloral hydrate combinated with benzos and often natural products that often haven’t gone through so hard controls. But people keep forgetting that everything we put into our body change on the way out and can cause a lot of damage while travelling through our body together with other substances….and all these might not like each other and cause damage to our body instead (told in a way so everone understand what I actually mean. If you are curious of more famous people that died of some kind of OD or toxication, then check on Google for autopsy reports of famous people and include in the search the medicines I mentioned at the beginning. Please read these reports with respect for the ones who

  21. SuZ Ajolie December 9, 2011

    died and try to learn something. Don’t just do it so you have more to gossip about. Let these people rest in peace an don’t ever believe what the tabloids or the gossipmagazines write. The percentage of truth that exists in these magazines is not much. Remember that!!!
    NAMASTE, SuZ Ajolie

  22. SuZ Ajolie December 9, 2011

    NAMASTE, SuZ Ajolie

  23. Tim January 20, 2012

    Hi all what about poor Brittany Murphy

    • Linz February 16, 2012

      Brittany Murphy died of pneumonia…not a drug overdose. Just sayin.

  24. Matt Forrester February 6, 2012

    Just letting you know that #14 is Max Cantor, rather than Nick Cantor, as you stated…cheers…Matt.

  25. Matt Forrester February 6, 2012

    Oh, yeah…and you said “he was” but never completed the sentence! I think that you meant to say that he was 32 y/o/a…cheers and sorry to keep correcting…!!

  26. Justin Gann February 14, 2012

    Whitney Houston- TMZ reports she died from perscription drug over dose. Multiple bottle of pills were found at the Hilton in Beverly Hills scene, and not many pills were located..

  27. Erin February 14, 2012

    Whitney Houston 🙁

  28. CDavis February 18, 2012

    Margaux Hemingway
    Date: July 1, 1996
    Drug: Phenobarbital (anti-seizure sedative)

    The 42-year-old model and actress was found in her Santa Monica, California apartment, dead from an overdose of phenobarbital. It was declared that she’d committed suicide, a day before the 35-year anniversary of her grandfather Ernest Hemingway’s own suicide.

  29. paulette February 19, 2012

    I guess u can now add Whitney Houston to your list.

  30. CDavis February 21, 2012

    Mary Anissa Jones, from Playa Del Rey, CA, was a child star on the hit television show “Family Affair,” during its entire run from 1966 to 1971. She played orphaned twin Buffy and Johnnie Whitaker played her brother Jody, On August 28, 1976, Anissa was found dead from downing a mixture of drugs including Barbiturates, Phencyclidine and Cocaine.

    • CDavis February 21, 2012

      Oh, Anissa Jones is #6.

  31. CDavis February 21, 2012

    Bobby Driscoll
    1937 – 1968
    At nine, Driscoll was Disney’s “golden boy” and at age 13 he won a miniature Oscar as outstanding juvenile actor. His career started unraveling when he developed severe acne upon hitting puberty. An arrest for marijuana poss at age 18 further scared off producers from hiring him. As his drug use went from pot to heroin, Driscoll had a series of run-ins with the law. After being arrested for forging a $45 check and robbing $450 from an animal clinic in1961, he was ordered to the CA State Narcotics Rehab Ctr for 6 mo. On March 30, 1968, two boys playing in an abandoned NY tenement discovered Driscoll’s body. Death was the result of hardening of the arteries from long-term drug abuse. Since Driscoll was found with no ID, he was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave. He was identified through fingerprints a year and a half later. He was only 31.

  32. CDavis February 21, 2012

    Scotty Beckett
    1929 – 1968
    He appeared in fifteen of the “Our Gang” shorts and dozens of feature films as a child. His biggest adult role, as the sidekick in the sci-fi TV show “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger,” ended after he was arrested on weapons charges in1954. While out on bail, Beckett fled to Mexico, got into a shootout with police, and spent 4 mo in prison. Back in the States, he added to his record with arrests for passing bad checks, assault, drug charges and multiple drunk driving busts. In 1963, despite being in a wheelchair after his latest DUI crash, Beckett was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after trying to stab his neighbor. At age 39, he died from an overdose of barbiturates. Critic Leonard Maltin called his death “a particularly sad end for someone who, as a child, had shown so much easy charm and talent.”

  33. Michelle Scram April 22, 2013

    Glenn Quinn

  34. Indhira July 29, 2013

    Cory Monteith the most recent one