Contrary to what many people believe, addiction isn’t just confined to street gangs, deviants, and the homeless – it can ruin the lives of absolutely anyone, from middle-class stay-at-home parents to big wig corporate CEOs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that addiction is so common today that as many as 1 in 10 Americans suffers from it at some point in their lives.
In fact, despite the fame, fortune, and endless leisure time that often comes with their lifestyles, there are plenty of famous drug addicts that turn to substance abuse day in and day out as well.
True, the massive bankroll of these stars certainly may have made their problem worse (addiction can be quite expensive after all). It’s important to recognize, though, that even the people “have it all” are just as at risk when it comes to substance use disorders.
Some you may have heard of or suspected. Names like Charlie Sheen, Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love, and countless others have become synonymous with the relentless abuse of drugs like cocaine, heroin, and alcohol.
But other big-name actors and icons have secretly battled their own addiction demons too. This list of surprising celebrity drug addicts shows that not only have some of the biggest names in Hollywood struggled with substance abuse, but many of them you’d never suspect.
Daniel Radcliffe – Alcohol
“I was living in constant fear of who I’d meet, what I might have said to them, what I might have done with them, so I’d stay in my apartment for days and drink alone. I was a recluse at 20. It was pathetic – it wasn’t me. I’m a fun, polite person, and it turned me into a rude bore.”
One of the most surprising celebrity addicts undoubtedly has to be Harry Potter himself. Daniel Radcliffe has spent much of his life in the spotlight ever since the wildly popular film adaptations of the wizarding franchise took off in the early 2000s.
But as reported by The Guardian, the constant pressure on Radcliffe to live up to the lofty standards of fans was brutal at times. And consequently, the young actor would cope with this pressure by turning to the bottle – just as so many other young drinkers often do.
Radcliffe told interviewers that he would sometimes turn up to the set of the films still drunk from the night before. Eventually, he realized that not only was he turning into a burden for the people he cared about but that he was also transforming into someone he really didn’t much like at all.
Today the world’s most popular wizard (sorry Gandalf) is a new man after finally seeking help. The drive to drink is still there, but now he funnels that same energy into exercise rather than a glass.
And judging by Radcliffe’s successful recovery, it looks like this spell just may have worked.
Leonard Nimoy – Alcohol
“The minute we finished the last shot I would have a drink. Then it became a series of drinks, little by little… Before I knew it, I was drinking more and more because my addictive personality was taking over.”
The relentlessly rational and timelessly iconic alien from Vulcan may have mastered his body and mind in the Sci-Fi classic Star Trek, but the actor portraying him actually struggled with alcoholism for years.
It’s true – Leonard Nimoy himself was a slave to addiction at one point in his life. According to The Fix, Nemoy would finish each taping with a ritualistic drink. Eventually, the problem spiraled out of control, and the famous actor would resort to drinking covertly during the actual filming.
Just like so many other celebrity drug addicts, Nemoy put some of the blame on the pressure of the spotlight and fame. Added to that, a troubled marriage made turning over his will to the bottle that much more enticing.
Luckily, Nemoy recognized one of the many hard truths of alcoholism – that it can often be deadly – before it was too late and sought professional help. He kicked his addiction in 1987, fell in love with his second wife, and lived long and prospered without the help of alcohol.
Zac Effron – Alcohol, Cocaine
“Without those moments where you feel like your lowest, it’s impossible to appreciate the high ones… But I sit here in front of you today much happier and healthier than I’ve probably ever been.”
High School Musical alumni Zac Effron has seen his fair share of troubles caused by too much drinking and the mind-altering effects of illegal drugs. According to some sources, the actor was snorting cocaine, dabbling with MDMA, and partied for days at a time without sleep.
In 2013 the young star checked into rehab (an essential part of recovery) for both alcohol and cocaine.
Added to the specialized addiction treatment care he found in this professional program, Effron has also joined Alcoholics Anonymous and has been delving into deeper issues with a therapist.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Effron said of his battle with addiction, “It’s a never-ending struggle.”
But like most who finally seek help for their addiction, the talented young actor has found relief in recovery. “I think it’s changed my life,” he says. “I’m much more comfortable in my own skin. Things are so much easier now.”
Robert Downey Jr. – Alcohol, Cocaine, Heroin, Benzodiazepines, Marijuana
“[Addiction is] like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and I like the taste of metal… I don’t drink these days. I am allergic to alcohol and narcotics. I break out in handcuffs.”
~Robert Downey Jr.
Few transitions from Hollywood bad-boy to international role model have been quite as dramatic as that of Robert Downey Jr. He literally went from serving time in state prison to becoming one of the most well-known superheroes in the history of film in less than a decade.
And while most people may know that Downey’s past is a bit, well, sketchy, they may not fully understand the extent. The Iron-Man actor was first arrested in 96 for possession of heroin, cocaine, and an unloaded firearm after being pulled over for speeding. Not long after, he was arrested again for trespassing after breaking into a neighbor’s home while he was under the influence.
After spending a little time in prison and going on probation, Downey skipped a drug test and was later sentenced to time in state prison in 1999. He was released in 2000 but just 3 months later was again taken into custody after being caught with cocaine and Valium, one of the most highly abused prescription medications.
That’s quite a rap sheet.
Luckily, Downey seems to have found the help he needed, and given the astounding success he’s seen recently, things are looking up for the one-time addict. And like so many addicts before him, the Marvel icon has considered his past a learning experience, not a defining mistake.
In a speech at the Avengers: Infinity War premiere, Downey spoke about his former struggles as an opportunity. “The past for me was 30 years of dependency, depravity, and despair… otherwise known as ‘An Actor Prepares!’”
In fact, Downey has even received a full pardon for his past infractions from the governor of California.
Things are looking up for this modern-day superhero.
Oprah – Crack/Cocaine
“It was weird. I just saw this woman I’ve admired so much. And she’s been where I’ve been and she pulled out of it. I’m 35 and I’ve done nothing for most of my life but get high. She got away from it. It gave me hope.”
~Kim Davis, former drug addict, speaking about an interview with Oprah
You’ve seen her on TV, in movies, on the cover of her own magazine. She’s enlightened, educated, and empowered millions during her rule as “Queen of Daytime Television.” And not to mention, she gave a brand-new car to her entire studio audience!
It may come as a bit of a shock, then, that such a monumental media figure actually struggled with addiction herself – and to a particularly powerful and stigmatized drug no less. That’s right, Oprah once had a problem with crack cocaine.
During one of her 1995 talk shows focusing on women who have drug problems, Oprah Winfrey admitted to her guests that she too struggled with addiction during her early 20s. “I did your drug,” she said to Kim Davis, a recovering addict, and mother.
“It threw me completely off guard,” Davis told The Washington Post. “You would never dream she’d had a problem with the drugs.”
Oprah told the audience and reporters who followed up on the story that her substance abuse was brought on during involvement with a man in her life. When they were together, they would both use. And for her, one of the biggest regrets was that she had “handed over my power to a man.”
This power imbalance when it comes to sexes and addiction isn’t uncommon. And in fact, it’s just one of the many reasons why it can be so helpful to check into a recovery program catered specifically to treating women.
Jodie Sweetin – Alcohol, Ecstasy, Crack, Meth
“Everything revolved around my addiction,” she told People in 2008 about her time using meth. “On a typical day I’d wake up and feel terrible because I hadn’t done any. You’re either trying to get it, doing it or worrying about when you’re going to get it next. You don’t even realize that it’s taken over so quickly.”
Like so many other child stars like her, Jodie Sweetin’s experience with substance abuse began early. And the pressures of young stardom and constant attention certainly didn’t help.
Best known for her role as Stephanie Tanner of Full House (with the memorable catchphrase “how rude!”), Sweetin’s spiral began soon after the hit show ended. While adjusting to “normal” life was somewhat easier for many of her costars, Sweetin supplemented many of her young adult experiences with a variety of drugs – crack, methamphetamine, alcohol, ecstasy.
As a result, her education suffered (as it does for so many college substance abusers) and her youth began a decades-long struggle with maintaining sobriety.
During that time she developed an “all day every day” methamphetamine habit, went from 130 to 100 pounds, and had lied to the friends and family she loved so much, according to ENews.
Part of the problem may have been genetic. As most people know the risk of addiction is partly determined by your genes. Children of alcoholics, for example, may be more hard-wired to use again compared to others. Sweetin’s mother had been an addict herself.
But over time – and with the continued commitment to recovery – the Full House starlet was eventually able to kick her addictions to the curb and rekindle her career in the spotlight with Fuller House which is now on its third season.
Dennis Quaid – Cocaine
“I was basically doing cocaine pretty much on a daily basis during the ’80s… I spent many, many a night screaming at God to ‘Please take this away from me, I’ll never do it again because I’ve only got an hour before I have to be at work…’ I saw myself either dead or losing everything that meant anything to me.”
Dennis Quaid has the good-natured vibe of a neighbor that would spend his Saturday afternoon helping you fix your lawnmower. Something about him makes you think he drinks milk with dinner, always reads the paper in the morning, and is in bed each night by 8:30.
But Quaid’s past wasn’t quite as wholesome as you might expect. In fact, the actor admits that when he first came to Hollywood in the 80s, he hit the cocaine bandwagon – and he hit it hard.
By the time he was starring in “The Big Easy” in 1987, he told Fox News, Quaid was only running on about one hour of sleep a night. “It was even in some movie budgets,” he claims. It was rock bottom. And he knew it was time for a change.
In 1990 he finally sought the help he so desperately needed. He admitted to then-wife Meg Ryan that he had a problem and checked into rehab for cocaine addiction. The two then faced a very difficult public divorce.
“That was the end of the love affair with me and cocaine,” Quaid said.
And by the look of things, he hasn’t turned back since.
Judy Garland – Amphetamines, Barbiturates
“Judy had been determined to look like a ‘movie star’—she wanted to be camera slim. It was that old bugaboo. I reiterated there was no need to be any thinner. . . . Her excuse was the weight issue, when in fact she was dependent. . . . She confessed it was virtually impossible for her to sustain a work mode in front of the cameras without taking some kind of medication.”
~Sid Luft, Garland’s third husband
Singer, actress, vaudevillian, and international star extraordinaire Judy Garland is one of the most famous celebrity drug addicts that was taken far too soon by her substance abuse problem.
Constantly struggling with problems involving self-image, the patriarchy of Hollywood, and rampant sexism that was so common of the time, Garland took to amphetamines to control her weight and used barbiturates to calm her down afterwards.
The most troubling part of Garland’s experience is that this blatant substance abuse appears to be built into the movie making institution of the time. Garland told biographer Richard A. Lertzman that studio executives would use the drugs to squeeze as much work out of her as possible.
“They had us [Judy and Mickey Rooney] working days and nights on end,” she said. “They’d give us pills to keep us on our feet long after we were exhausted. Then they’d take us to the studio hospital and knock us out with sleeping pills… then after four hours they’d wake us up and give us the pep pills again so we could work 72 hours in a row.”
Unfortunately, this callous abuse led to Garland developing a serious addiction to these prescription meds. And at the young age of just 47, Garland fatally overdosed on barbiturates.
She goes down in history as one of Hollywood’s most emblematic stars as well as one of its greatest tragedies.
Stephen King – Alcohol, Cocaine, Sleep Aids
“I didn’t just have a problem with beer and cocaine. I was an addictive personality, period… I was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, I loved Listerine, I loved NyQuil, you name it. If it would change your consciousness, I was all for it.”
If there’s anyone who belongs in the class of horror-story royalty, it’s Stephen King. He’s been behind some of the biggest names in the thriller genre (both in writing and in film) including It, The Shining, Misery, Carrie, Pet Sematary, and countless others. He is without a doubt considered one of the most prolific writers of all time.
But what many people don’t know is that Stephen King actually struggled with rampant substance abuse for years. Beer (after beer after beer…) was King’s method of choice for keeping ideas flowing and his typewriter clacking. Soon though, that addiction progressed to harder substances of abuse.
Cocaine, for example, was his drug of choice for fueling his late-night writing stints. The writer describes stuffing his nose with cotton balls just so that blood wouldn’t drip onto the typewriter.
Eventually, drinking and using became such an integral part of King’s writing process that he felt like he would be a failure if he ever abandoned them. And that made it even harder to finally get clean.
After years of watching the self-destruction, though, King’s family and friends decided to finally intervene. It took several attempts, but with the right help, the monumental horror novelist was finally able to kick his addiction not just to drugs but to alcohol too.
As The Fix notes, some of King’s best work (which was far less rambling) actually came out of his sobriety: The Green Mile, Dark Tower, 11/22/63.
And as you can see, finding the muse without being under the influence is in fact possible. Just look at Stephen King!
Jon Hamm – Alcohol
“[Rehab] has all these connotations, but it’s just an extended period of talking about yourself… People go for all sorts of reasons, not all of which are chemically related. But there’s something to be said for pulling yourself out of the grind for a period of time and concentrating on recalibrating the system. And it works. It’s great.
The face of Mad Men recently faced sought treatment for an addiction to alcohol.
Anyone who’s seen the series knows just how much liquor these characters throw back every single day. But it seems like Hamm, the star of the series, may have taken on some of the demons of the role he was playing – ad exec Don Draper.
Hamm has tried to relieve some of the stigma surrounding addiction rehab since graduating from a 30-day program. In an interview with InStyle, Hamm said that rehabilitation is like treating any other disease.
“Medical attention is medical attention whether it’s for your elbow or for your teeth or for your brain,” he says. “And it’s important. We live in a world where to admit anything negative about yourself is seen as a weakness, when it’s actually a strength. It’s not a weak move to say, ‘I need help.’ In the long run it’s way better, because you have to fix it.”
And given just how deadly alcohol really is, the sooner someone admits they need help for their alcoholism, the better.
Jamie Lee Curtis – Prescription Opioids
“So, awaiting final toxicology, it has now been reported in the New York Times that Prince was toxic. I can relate. I was toxic too.. I too, waited anxiously for a prescription to be filled for the opiate I was secretly addicted to… I too, took too many at once. I too, sought to kill emotional and physical pain with painkillers. Kill it. Make it stop”
~Jamie Lee Curtis
As most people today know, the United States is in the middle of an unprecedented health crisis known as the opioid epidemic. Abuse of prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Fentanyl, Vicodin, and Dilaudid has increased by 63% in the past five years. In 2016 alone, more than 64 thousand people died from a drug overdose, and two out of every three was caused by opioids.
What’s especially frightening here is that opioid deaths continue to rise despite the fact that prescription rates are actually dropping.
Hollywood icon Jamie Lee Curtis knows about the dangers of opioids firsthand. After all, she’s struggled with an addiction to these dangerous drugs for more than 17 years. Like so many others, Curtis became addicted to the euphoria that these powerful prescriptions provide after she was given them to help relieve pain after a medical procedure.
After recognizing just how much pain her addiction was causing her family, though, Curtis made a choice to kick her drug habit for good. Now she spends her time working as a volunteer counselor for anti-drug campaigns where she can inspire others to follow in her footsteps.
Opioids can be especially hard to stop using. But no matter how far your addiction has gotten, there is always hope for recovery.
Other Celebrity Drug Addicts
As you can see, addiction doesn’t spare anyone. Even the most unsuspecting and surprising people can be stricken with a substance abuse problem if they aren’t careful.
Below are just a few more Hollywood stars that have struggled with substance abuse in the past along with a few direct quotes about what they learned along the way.
Tim Allen – Cocaine
“[Rehab] put me in a position of great humility, and I was able to make amends to friends and family and refocus my life on setting and achieving goals.”
Matthew Perry – Alcohol, Prescription Painkillers
“From an outsider’s perspective, it would seem like I had it all. It was actually a very lonely time for me because I was suffering from alcoholism… It was going on before Friends, but it’s a progressive disease… I had a big problem with pills and alcohol, and I couldn’t stop.”
Jane Lynch – Alcohol, OTC Drugs
“Despite being a girl looking for excuses to feel different, unworthy, and separate, my not-so-exciting drinking backstory did not prevent me from feeling a kinship. I felt the very same feelings many of the people in AA spoke of: alienation, self-contempt, and obsession. I felt like I’d come home and I couldn’t wait to get to a meeting every day, and sometimes I’d hit two.”
Aaron Sorkin – Cocaine, Marijuana, Mushrooms
“The real problem with all drugs is that they work. Fantastically. They’re great, right up until the moment they kill you.”
Angelina Jolie – Heroin, Cocaine
“I have done just about every drug possible: cocaine, heroin, Ecstasy, LSD.”
“The drugs thing, it was a hell of a lot of fun… until it wasn’t. But you know what, I thank the day it happened to me. Because that’s my strength, my faith, my hope for something better.”
Elton John – Alcohol, Cocaine
“I still dream, twice a week at least, that I’ve taken cocaine and I have it up my nose… And it’s very vivid and it’s very upsetting, but at least it’s a wake-up call.
Anthony Hopkins – Alcohol
“If you’re an alcoholic or a drug addict, we flirt with death. We pull ourselves to the brink of destruction and if we’re lucky we pull ourselves back. We all have that in us.”
Ben Affleck – Alcohol
“I want to live life to the fullest and be the best father I can be. I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step.”
Rob Lowe – Alcohol
“Sobriety was the greatest gift I ever gave myself. I don’t put it on a platform. I don’t campaign about it. It’s just something that works for me. It enabled me to really connect with another human being – my wife, Sheryl – which I was never able to do before.”
Russel Brand – Alcohol
“Change is hard, that’s why we can’t do it alone and why it is vital that we have a foundation of hope.”
Robin Williams – Cocaine, Alcohol
“My battles with addiction definitely shaped how I am now. They really made me deeply appreciate human contact. And the value of friends and family, how precious that is.”
Recovery Is Possible – With The Right Help!
As you can see, the typical stereotype of a drug addict – poor, disheveled, and unsuccessful – doesn’t really hold up. After all, who would have thought that Harry Potter, Spock, and the Queen of Daytime Television herself all struggled with substance use disorders at one point in their lives?
Addiction doesn’t have a set mark, a specific kind of person that it pounces on. Absolutely anyone can develop a problem with drugs or alcohol. And many times, the people closest to them don’t even know that there’s something wrong to begin with.
That’s why it’s so important to know how to spot the signs of addiction early on – so you can get help before it’s too late.
In the end, the most important step is recognizing that there’s a problem and committing to getting help.
As so many of the famous drug addicts above have shown, addiction isn’t permanent, and it certainly isn’t a death sentence. Recovery is possible – and with the right help, it can be easier than you ever imagined.
What other surprising celebrity drug addicts do you know about? Can you relate to the substance abuse struggles of these stars? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to contact us at any time if you need help or just have a question about addiction, treatment, or recovery. We’re always here to help.