The most heartbreaking consequence of drug overdose is death. Death by drugs is usually the result of mixing drugs with other drugs or with alcohol. However, even just taking too much of drug, whether it’s illicit or prescription, is dangerous. Drug overdose has ended the lives of some of the world’s most iconic people. What’s especially sad about this is that drug overdose deaths can be prevented. If you are struggling with addiction and aren’t sure if you have it in you to quit, take a moment to remember these cultural icons and how their deaths shook the world.


Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is one of the most recognizable people in the world, even more than 50 years after her death. Once an American actress and model, Monroe is still considered one of the world’s most beautiful women. In addition, she is arguably Hollywood’s most famous cultural sex symbol even today. People even dress like her for Halloween! Unfortunately, Monroe’s life was cut short at 36. She had overdosed on sleeping pills and alcohol in her Los Angeles home on August 5, 1962. Although there has been some speculation in recent years about the circumstances surrounding her sudden death, Monroe’s death was officially ruled as a drug overdose in the coroner’s report. To this day, Monroe’s is one of the most famous drug overdose deaths in Hollywood history.


Jimi Hendrix

Guitarist, singer, and songwriter James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix was one of the biggest musical stars in the mid-to-late 1960s. His skills on the electric guitar and his experimental sound broke new ground for the music industry, breathing new life into the R&B and rock genres. What most people don’t know, however, is that Hendrix struggled with drugs and alcohol. He died on September 18, 1970. The mixture of barbiturates and alcohol is thought to have been a major factor in his death. Hendrix died in London from asphyxiation— having overdosed and choked on his own vomit. Today, Hendrix is remembered fondly and his mark on the world and on music is honored. His name is even prominent among the posthumous 27 Club members, alongside Billy Jones, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and many others.


Elvis Presley

Musician and actor Elvis “The King” Presley rose to fame in the mid-1950s. He is one of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll even today. Presley is most famous for his hand in popularizing rock ‘n’ roll in America. Like Monroe, his idolization had people either loving him or wanting to be him. Presley’s looks, charm and stage presence was unlike any other’s during the span of his iconic career and goes unmatched even today. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. On the morning of August 16, 1977, Presley had died at the age of 42. It was later discovered during the autopsy that his prescription drug use— or misuse— was a factor in the heart attack that caused his death.


Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson will be forever known as the King of Pop after his chart-topping musical career, both as a solo artist and with the Jackson 5. As it was more recent than the others on this list, Jackson’s death might be just as famous as his life. His passing came as a great shock to everyone and made headlines for weeks. On June 25, 2009, it was reported from multiple sources that Jackson had suffered cardiac arrest in his home in Los Angeles. The media flocked to the story and later disclosed to the public that Jackson had died later that same morning at the age of 50. As more information surrounding his death was brought to light, the shock only grew. An official coroner’s report was released, detailing the real cause of  Jackson’s death. His cardiac arrest had been triggered by an overdose on a lethal drug cocktail of propofol, diazepam, midazolam, and lidocaine. Jackson’s story has since served as inspiration for advocates of mental and physical health, and as a cautionary tale for anyone struggling with drug addiction.


Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse, a famous English singer and songwriter, brought a passion to music that most artists lack today. She rose to fame in the early 2000s and quickly gained international popularity. When she won a whopping five Grammy Awards in 2008 for her album Back to Black, Winehouse not only broke the record for “most awards won by a female artist in a single night,” but she also became the first British artist to win five Grammys. This included the awards for Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Best New Artist. Sadly, her blossoming career lasted little more than a decade. Winehouse died on July 23, 2011, of alcohol poisoning, at the age of 27. Even more tragic is that her incredible talent seems to be overshadowed by the substance addiction that led to her death.


Discovery Institute on Drug Overdose Deaths

The tragic loss of these and other international icons is a constant reminder that drug overdose deaths are preventable. Drugs are not worth dying for. If you or someone you love is trying to get clean without success, call Discovery Institute at 888-616-7177.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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