Michael Jackson Memorial Anniversary

And Other Stories of Celebrities’ Drug-induced Deaths That Shocked the World

Today, June 25th 2016, marks the seventh year anniversary of the death of ‘Pop Star Icon Singer’ Michael Jackson. When the shocking news of Jackson’s death was announced seven years ago, the world seemingly came to a halt. As millions of fans mourned Jackson’s death, news coverage around the globe exposed lurid details that Jackson died of long-term use of prescription drugs.

Hours later, once the dust finally settled down the discovery of evidence suggested the pop star had in fact died from taking numerous painkillers known as opioids followed by a dosage of demerol including the powerful stimulant propfol. Michael Jackon’s death seemed all too surreal in the minds of his fans around the world. But Jackson’s death was real, the legendary “Pop Star” was gone forever: Cause of death: A fatal drug overdose.

Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson.

Following the death of the ‘King of Pop,’ overwhelming grief and celebrations engulfed the globe, from fans crowding the streets of England, Germany, Australian, Japan, and the United States – all the way to Jackson’s childhood home in Gary Indiana.

If love could have brought the ‘Pop Star’ back, he would’ve lived forever. But that is only a fantasy.

Over past years gone by, Michael Jackson’s death only added to a long tragic list of popular celebrities to die of drug intoxication. Several celebrities, TV stars and entertainers who struggled with substance abuse addiction died between 2007-2016. Among Hollywood’s A-list of who’s, who, to die from drug overdose were Anna Nicole Smith, actor Heath Ledger, actress Brittany Murphy, actor Corey Haim. More recently famous singers Whitney Houston and Prince also died of drug overdoses.

Deaths of celebrities are high profile examples of a growing national problem that spotlights dangerous pharmaceuticals that are steadily rising at an alarming rate. Drug addiction affects the lives of not only the rich and famous but others from all walks of life.

prince looking stunning.
Prince looking stunning.

Tragedies like the death of Jackson, Whitney Houston, Prince and Anna Nicole Smith and many others in the entertainment industry suggest many celebrities are hooked on pill-popping and illegal narcotics. Even before Jackson’s death, famous actor Burt Reynolds admitted he was “a prisoner of prescription pain pills.” Others that are still alive like Winona Ryder, actor Charlie Sheen, Jamie Lee Curtis and Friends’ star Matthew Perry; all have confessed to being addicted to painkillers and other prescription drugs.

These stories make headlines because the spotlight expose the lives of superstars.

Despite the high rate of fatalities from prescribed drugs, doctors still insist that prescription drugs are legitimate but illegal drugs are not.

“They are viewed as FDA approved and safe, and that is not true,” Dr. Lewis of the NYU(New York University) Langone Medical Center told Livescience.com Senior Writer Jeanna Bryner.

“There’s a misperception that because it’s a prescription drug it’s okay.”

Evidence confirms Dr. Lewis’ assertion.

elvis in white
elvis in white

The American Medical Association reported recently that prescription drugs kill at least 100,000 Americans each year and these drugs were legally prescribed. Those drugs eventually caused their death.

Prescription Drugs Kill People More Than Gun Violence

Prescription drug overdose is now the second leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States, far surpassing firearms-related deaths. And painkillers like the ones most celebrities and others use daily now rank second behind marijuana as the nation’s most prevalent illegal drug problem.

“Any time you see an overdose or a castastrophic event like the overdose deaths of Michael Jackson and other well known celebrities, it’s horrible and it reminds us of the danger of using drugs,” says Kevin Conway of the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse.)

Conway explains further. “When it happens to celebrities it gets more dissemination. So it’s a bad thing, but it reminds us of what the real harms are.”

The driving forces behind the epidemic in drug and alcohol abuse in the entertainment industry are as diverse as those trapped in its grip. Experts say the adrenalin rush of fame, notoriety and the applause from millions of fans has the same power as a seductive narcotic.

Experts further say prescribed drug use began with our faith in the medical profession. Addiction to prescription drugs often occurs after a drug is first taken in good faith for a legitimate ailment.

As an example, Pop Star Michael Jackson had once been addicted to Demerol after he suffered a burned scalp in 1984 while filming a Pepsi commercial. Several years later, Jackson’s use of prescribed drugs led to continuing abuse and eventually the music icon grew heavily dependent on the drugs prescribed to alleviate his pain.

“My long time experience in Hollywood has taught me that sudden fame can be a more potent drug than crack cocaine,” said celebrity publicist and author Michael Levine.

“When the young are exposed to fame, and the suddeness that technology can bestow onto it, it is far more intoxicating,” Levine said.

Actor Heath Ledger was addicted to more than 20 different prescription drugs.

“If someone has an overdose death with the kind of toxicology report that actor Heath Ledger had, it’s usually an indication they were either doctor-shopping or purchasing medication on the street or the internet,” New York psychiatrist Andrew Kolodny told Hollywood Today.

“I think people of all ages don’t take medication as seriously as street drugs,” says Dr. Marvin Seppala, Chief Medical Officer at a MinnesotaTtreatment Center. “There’s a sort of a naive belief they are safer. The truth is pain medication are in the same class as heroin and morphine. These legal drugs are addicting.”

As mentioned earlier prescription drug overdose is steadily growing. The U.S. Federal government is allocating $30 million for an ‘ad’ campaign to raise awareness about the problem.

Government intervention went even further than spending money on publicity. A bill known as the Drug Overdose Reduction Act was recently introduced by Rep. Donna F. Edwards(D-MD). The bill is targeted at creating a federal grant program to provide cities, states, tribal governments and community-based groups with funding to prevent and reduce overdose deaths.

Celebrity Deaths Due To Drug Abuse

Michael Jackson’s prescription drug overdose shocked the world but there are many other famous celebrities and entertainers whose death was due to drug abuse.

Here they are:

(1) Anna Nicole Smith

Date of Birth: Nov. 28th 1967
Date of death: Feb.8th 2007
Drugs Used: (1) Chloral hydrate (2) Lorazepam and several sedatives/muscle relaxants.

(2) Whitney Houston

Date of Birth: August 9th 1963
Date of Death: February 11th 2012.
Cause of Death: A combination of drowning and the effects of “Atherosclerotic” heart disease and cocaine use.

(3) Prince Roger Nelson, better known as Prince

Date of Birth: June 7th 1958
Date of Death: April 21st 2016
Cause of Death: Overdose of Fentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller up to 50 times more powerful than heroin according to medical experts.

(4) Heath Leger

Date of Birth: April 4th 1979
Date of death: Jan. 22nd 2008
Drugs Used: (1) Painkillers and Hydrocodone (2) Alprazolam aka Xanax

(5) Elvis Presley

Date of Birth: Jan. 8th 1935
Date of Death: Aug. 16th 1977
Drugs Used: (1) Codeine (2) Quaaludes and numerous sedatives.

(6) Marilyn Monroe Birth name: Norma Jean Mortenson

Date of Birth: JUNE 1st 1926.
Date of Death: Aug. 5th 1962
Drugs Used: (1) Pentobarbital (2) Chloral hydrate

Background: The sex symbol actress was found dead at age 36 in her Los Angeles home during early morning hours on August 5th. 1962. According to press reports the toxicology report showed high levels of two barbiturates in her blood. For years speculation persisted that the blond beauty overdosed accidentally on drugs.

Marilyn Monroe was a Golden Globe-winning, Critically-Acclaimed American actress, singer, model, Hollywood icon, Cultural icon and sex symbol. World known for her beauty, Monroe was perhaps the most popular movie star of the 1950s and 1960s. Her fame surpassed that of any other entertainer of her time.

(7) Dorothy Dandridge

Date of Birth: Nov. 9th 1922
Date of Death Sept.8th 1965
Drugs Used: Imipramine, aka Tofranil (antidepressant)

Background: Dandridge became the first African-American nominated for an Academy Award for best Actress. At 42, this brown-colored beauty queen was found dead by her manager from what was later diagnosed as an “acute drug intoxication.”

(8) Jimi Hendrix

Date of Birth: Nov. 27th 1942
Date of death: Sept. 18, 1970
Drug Used: (1) Secobarbital aka Seconal (sleeping pills)

Background: This legendary musical guitarist, age 27, was found dead in his girlfreind’s apartment. The coroner’s cause of death was “inhalation of vomit” after “barbiturate intoxication.”

(9) Bruce Lee

Date of Birth: Nov. 27th 1942
Date of death: July 20th 1973
Drugs Used: (1) Equagesic, a painkiller.

Background: This famous martial artist and movie actor in karate films during the 1970s died in Hong Kong at age 32 from swelling of the brain (“acute cerebral edema”) allegedly caused by a prescribed drug called equagesic.

(10) Dana Plato

Date of Birth: Nov. 1st 1963
Date of death: May 8th 1999
Drugs Used: (1) Carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant. (2) Vicodin, a painkiller.

Background: Plato played an actress on the once popular television show called “The Different Strokes.” At 34, she died in Oklahoma from an accidental overdose of two prescribed drugs, a muscle relaxant and a painkiller. In 1992 Plato had been arrested for forging a Valium prescription.

(11) Gerald Levert

Date of Birth: July 13th 1966
Date of death: November 10th 2006
Drugs Used: (1) Vicodin (2) Percocet (3) Alprazolam

Background: R&B singer Gerald Levert, age 40, passed away at his Ohio home from what the coroner report listed as acute intoxication as result of using a combination of Xanax and Vicodin.

(12) Judy Garland. Birth name: Frances Ethel Gumm

Date of Birth: June 10th 1922
Date of death: June 22nd 1969.
Drugs Used: Sleeping Pills

Background: Garland was an American actress and singer. Throughout her career Garland won international stardom as an actress in both musical and dramatic roles. She won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her work in films. According to published stories down through the years Garland suffered a long intense struggle with prescription drug addiction and attempted suicide at least twice.

(13) Kurt Cobain

Date of Birth: Feb. 20th 1967
Date of death: April 5th 1994
Drugs Used: Prescription Rohypnol

Background: Cobain was an American singer-song writer and musician. Married to Courtney Love, he was best known as the lead guitarist of the Nirvana band. While in Rome Cobain apparently overdosed on a combination of champagne and the prescription drug Rohypnol.

(14) Billionaire Howard Hughes

Date of Birth: Dec. 24th 1905
Date of death: April 5th 1976
Drugs Used: Codeine and Valium

Background: Hughes was a famous aviator, engineer and billionaire. The movie Aviator produced by Martin Scorcese was based on the life of Hughes. Hughes also fancied himself as a film director and producer making notorious films like Hell’s Angels, Scarface and The Outlaw. Howard Hughes died in 1976 while en route to a Houston Texas hospital from his multi-millon dollar estate in Acalpulco Mexico. Although the official cause of death was listed as liver failure, the autopsy showed lethal amount of codeine and valium in the system of the eccentric, germophobic billionaire.

Clarence Walker
As an analyst and researcher for the PI industry and a business consultant, Clarence Walker is a veteran writer, crime reporter and investigative journalist. He began his writing career with New York-based True Crime Magazines in Houston Texas in 1983, publishing more than 300 feature stories. He wrote for the Houston Chronicle (This Week Neighborhood News and Op-Eds) including freelancing for Houston Forward Times.Working as a paralegal for a reputable law firm, he wrote for National Law Journal, a publication devoted to legal issues and major court decisions. As a journalist writing for internet publishers, Walker's work can be found at American Mafia.com, Gangster Inc., Drug War Chronicle, Drug War101 and Alternet.His latest expansion is to News Break.Six of Walker's crime articles were re-published into a paperback series published by Pinnacle Books. One book titled: Crimes Of The Rich And Famous, edited by Rose Mandelsburg, garnered considerable favorable ratings. Gale Publisher also re-published a story into its paperback series that he wrote about the Mob: Is the Mafia Still a Force in America?Meanwhile this dedicated journalist wrote criminal justice issues and crime pieces for John Walsh's America's Most Wanted Crime Magazine, a companion to Walsh blockbuster AMW show. If not working PI cases and providing business intelligence to business owners, Walker operates a writing service for clients, then serves as a crime historian guest for the Houston-based Channel 11TV show called the "Cold Case Murder Series" hosted by reporter Jeff McShan.At NewsBlaze, Clarence Walker expands his writing abilities to include politics, human interest and world events.Clarence Walker can be reached at: [email protected]