From OD to RIP

Famous Personalities Who Died After an Overdose

No one is immune to an accidental drug overdose. Those who abuse drugs are the most likely candidates, but virtually anyone can become the victim of an OD—whether from stimulants, opioids, or other substances, and whether those substances are legal or illegal. Unfortunately, a great many celebrities and public figures have died due to an OD. Read about some of them below—and resolve not to follow their example.


Country musician and rising star Luke Bell overdosed on the potent and deadly opioid fentanyl in August of 2022. He was only 32, and his death was ruled an accident. Tragically, it takes only the tiniest amount of fentanyl to cause a fatal overdose. Sadly, Bell’s life is far from the only one cut short by improper drug use.


Saturday Night Live comedian, Animal House alumnus, and Blues Brother John Belushi overdosed on a combination of the illegal drugs cocaine and heroin, a mixture known on the street as a “speedball.” Many view drug use as “partying” or just having fun. John Belushi probably had that attitude when he died at the age of 33.


Groundbreaking comedian Lenny Bruce was found dead surrounded by drug paraphernalia in 1966, just a couple of months before what would have been his 41st birthday. The official cause of death was listed as “acute morphine poisoning caused by an overdose.” When drugs are involved, accidents often happen, and they’re often the last accident a person ever makes.


Popular Saturday Night Live cast member Chris Farley died from an illegal drug overdose of morphine and cocaine at the age of 33. Even the most successful people can find themselves dealing with negative emotions. Drugs may seem to help, but they most often do more harm than good.


In 1970, pioneering rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix overdosed on a friend’s prescription sleeping pills (barbiturates) at the age of 27. The drugs were legal, and they didn’t belong to Hendrix, but they ended his life just the same.


Prolific Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died at the top of his career at 45 years old. He overdosed on a deadly mix of illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and amphetamine. It’s difficult for anyone to deal with negative emotions, but illegal drugs are never the answer.


Powerful vocalist Whitney Houston was 48 when she overdosed on cocaine, a dangerous illegal stimulant, in 2012. Cocaine has been a “popular” drug for a long time because it seems to make one more energetic or productive, but the substance has proven itself to be extremely addictive and dangerous, and not worth the risk.


The death of Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop,” shocked the world when he overdosed in his early 50s on a mix of prescription drugs, including midazolam, lidocaine, diazepam, and lorazepam. Michael Jackson was under a lot of stress in the years leading to his death. Often, people with similar feelings use drugs to help them feel better—but the effects are always temporary. A lethal overdose, however, is always permanent.


Iconic American musician Janis Joplin’s death in 1970 was the result of an overdose of heroin. She was only 27. It’s been theorized that Joplin took what she thought was a “normal” amount of heroin, but the drug was much stronger or more concentrated than usual—so it killed her. You should always know what you’re taking, and it’s almost impossible to do that if the drugs are illegal.


Australian actor Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar in 2009 for his role as the Joker in the movie Batman Returns. He had overdosed the year before at the age of 28 from a prescription drug overdose of the opioids oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, diazepam, temazepam, and doxylamine. What happened to Ledger happens to others all too often—every day.


Cultural icon Marilyn Monroe died at 36 from an overdose of sleeping pills (barbiturates). Whether it was by accident or a suicide, we’ll never know. However, many drugs can have a negative effect on our emotions, and can lead us to make poor decisions. Tragically, those decisions can be fatal.


Struggling with addiction, Chuck Mosely, lead singer of the rock band Faith No More, died at 57 of an illegal heroin overdose in 2017. Addiction makes people do things they wouldn’t normally do. Many people may recognize that they have an addiction, but think that they can “handle it.” Until they can’t.


Famous musician and singer Tom Petty died in 2017 at the age of 66 after taking a deadly cocktail of opioids, including oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam, citalopram, and fentanyl. Both legal and illegal drugs are popular in the music industry for a variety of reasons. They’ve brought an end to far too many careers.


The actor best known for his role in Stand by Me, River Phoenix died at the age of 23 from an OD of heroin and cocaine. He was probably “just having fun” when he took the combination of drugs known as “speedball,” but fun always ends. For Phoenix, it tragically ended with his death.


Nearly 15 different drugs were suspected to be involved in Elvis Presley’s death in 1977. The legendary “King of Rock and Roll” was 42. Presley was dealing with a variety of health issues at the time, including an addiction to drugs. Even the most successful and accomplished person can get in over their head with regard to drug use.


Legendary music icon Prince died at 57 from an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl in 2016. Prince’s death was an early warning sign of how deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl can be. Unfortunately, the warning came far too late for many, but being aware of the danger can help.


Pro hockey player Marek Svatos was only 24 when he accidentally overdosed on a mix of opioids codeine and morphine, as well as alprazolam (also known by the brand name Xanax). Like many athletes, Svatos likely relied on medication to manage pain. To be sure, chronic pain can be hard to manage, but regular drug use can become even harder.


It was 1971 when Jim Morrison, the legendary voice behind the Doors, overdosed on illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine at the age of 27. Morrison was likely doing drugs to have fun and relax. Too many overdoses begin that way.