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15 Famous Heroin Addicts and Why They Used

Heroin, an opiate drug derived from the poppy plant, is a stimulant that produces euphoria. Though it has some medical applications, recreational use is illegal in the United States. Nonetheless, heroin abuse is a common problem. Here are fifteen celebrities who struggled with heroin addiction.

1. Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain, former front man of Nirvana, killed himself in 1994 at the age of 27. During the last years of his life, Cobain abused heroin, at least in part to help manage the pain of chronic stomach condition. He did go to rehab in 1992 after learning he was going to be a father, but he began using again not long after finishing the program.

2. Janis Joplin

Legendary singer and songwriter Janis Joplin struggled with heroin addiction from very early in her career. She also died at the age of 27 from heroin overdose. Alcohol was also believed to have contributed to her death.

3. Jimi Hendrix

Guitarist Jimi Hendrix used many different types of drugs, including LSD, marijuana, heroin, and amphetamines. He was arrested in 1969 for possession of heroin, but he was acquitted of those charges after testifying that the drugs were planted in his belongings. He died in 1970 of a drug overdose.

4. River Phoenix

River Phoenix, who acted in films such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Stand by Me, died in 1993 after a heroin overdose caused his heart to stop. The actor was born into a family of many actors – his brother Joaquin Phoenix and sisters Rain Phoenix and Summer Phoenix are all in the business.

5. Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton Eric Clapton struggled with a heroin addiction early in his career. After successfully completing rehab, he founded Crossroads, a rehab center in Antigua dedicated to helping addicts of all income levels overcome drug abuse.

6. Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison, front man for The Doors, died at the age of twenty-seven of what recent reports say was a heroin overdose. The reports conflict about whether he died at a Paris nightclub or at home in his bathtub, but it is clear that heroin was a factor.

7. Miles Davis

Jazz musician Miles Davis reportedly used drugs, including cocaine, at different points in his career, and he reached breaking point in the late 70s. In 1979, with the help of actress Cicely Tyson, Davis beat his cocaine habit and continued making music until his death in 1991 at the age of sixty-five.

8. Jean-Michel Basquiat

American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat died at the age of twenty-seven of heroin overdose. He was famous for his graffiti style of art, which garnered much critical acclaim when he shot to stardom in the 1980s.

9. Lenny Bruce

Standup comedian Lenny Bruce was a controversial figure because of his drug abuse and use of profanity on stage, which were shocking in the 1950s. He died in 1966 after reportedly overdosing on heroin.

10. Billie Holiday

Jazz singer Billie Holiday struggled with heroin and alcohol abuse for much of her career. She was arrested in 1947 for drug possession and served a year in prison. In 1959 she was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. She died later that year, and was arrested in her hospital room as she was dying for drug possession.

11. Russell Brand

Actor Russell Brand, known for films like Get Him to the Greek and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, struggled with heroin addiction early in his career, but has reportedly been clean since 2003. Since the death of his friend Amy Winehouse, Brand has dedicated himself to helping others who are struggling with addiction.

12. Corey Feldman

Popular 80s actor Corey Feldman struggled with drug abuse from the time he was a teenager; he was arrested in 1990 and was found to be in possession of heroin. However, he has reportedly been sober since 2000.

13. William Burroughs

Beat writer William Burroughs drew on his experience with heroin addiction in his writing. In addition to using heroin, he sold the drug in the 40s when he lived in Greenwich Village in New York City. Burroughs is known for books such as Naked Lunch, one of the great Beat classics.

14. Robert F. Kennedy

In 1983, Robert F. Kennedy was arrested for heroin possession. Shortly thereafter, Kennedy went into rehab for drug abuse. Since then, he reportedly has not used drugs.

15. Chris Farley

Comedic actor Chris Farley died of a drug overdose after struggling with addiction to many drugs, including heroin, for years. He was found dead in his apartment in October of 1997. He was 33 years old.

Make no mistake – there’s nothing glamorous about heroin. If you or a loved one is using heroin, you probably already know how addictive it is. Call our drug abuse hotline toll-free at to find a center near you that specializes in heroin detox and withdrawal treatment and begin regaining control of your life.

Image Credit: Eric Clapton — By Ericclapton007 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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