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Celebrity deaths due to addiction: Part Three

This is the final installation of our 3-part series on the tragic deaths of celebrities in the last decade due to addiction:

(In case you missed our earlier posts, click here to read Part 1 & click here to read Part 2)

Brad Renfro (July 25, 1982 – January 15, 2008, age 25)
Actor Brad Renfro, who starred in “The Client”, died from a heroin overdose. Ironically, the young actor’s participation in an anti-drug school skit eventually led to an audition for director Joel Schumacher. People named Brad one of its “Top 30 Under 30”. Brad showed great promise as an actor, but his bright future dimmed as he was arrested numerous times for drug and alcohol related charges.  Brad was 25 when his dead body was discovered at his home in Los Angeles.

Heath Ledger (April 4, 1979 – January 22, 2008, age 28)
Actor Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescription medication including painkillers, sleeping pills, antihistamines and anti-anxiety medications. His housekeeper and a massage therapist found his body in a Soho apartment he was renting in New York. Emergency officials arrived on the scene and tried to revive him without success. Among many other accolades, Heath was awarded a posthumous Academy Award for his portrayal of The Joker in the hit film “Dark Knight”. Heath did not live to see his critically acclaimed performance in what many dubbed “the role of a lifetime”. Prior to his role in “Dark Knight”, Heath was best known for his Academy Award nominated role as a closeted homosexual cowboy in director Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain”. While he left a tremendous legacy, Heath had much more to give to world and many more roles to play. His daughter Matilda will most definitely miss his active role as her daddy the most. Heath was 28 when he died.

Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009, age 50)
Music icon Michael Jackson, known as the “King of Pop”, died of a drug overdose at his Los Angeles mansion in June 2009. Michael made his musical debut as lead singer with his brothers in the band The Jackson 5. He went on to become an extremely successful solo singer, performer and global phenomenon. His legendary dance moves are almost as famous as his immensely popular music. Michael won 15 Grammys and 26 American Music Awards. He was a double inductee to the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” – both as a member of The Jackson 5 and as a solo artist. His album “Thriller” remains the best selling album of all time. Michael’s eccentric lifestyle, ever-changing appearance, unconventional personal relationships and controversial lawsuits were widely covered by the media. Michael was preparing for his impending world tour “This Is It” when he was given a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol along with the three anti-anxiety drugs lorazepam, midazolam and diazepam. His personal physician allegedly administered the drugs in an effort to help the pop star sleep. The world was shocked to hear the news of Michael’s sudden death and watched his televised memorial service in record numbers. Michael was 50 when he died.

DJ AM (March 30, 1973 – August 28, 2009, age 36)
Adam Goldstein, known as DJ AM to his fans, died from a drug overdose. DJ AM started working as a DJ when he was 20. He battled a drug addiction to crack cocaine during his 20’s, was overweight and attempted suicide with a gun. He sobered up, dealt with his food addiction issues and remained in recovery for 11 years. DJ AM had a strong following, was friends with numerous Hollywood stars, dated singer-actress Mandy Moore and was later engaged to socialite-reality star Nicole Richie. DJ AM and Blink-182 band member Travis Barker survived a serious Learjet crash that killed two other passengers and both crew members. DJ AM was in critical condition after the crash and suffered serious burns. The recovering addict was prescribed medication for his injuries and post-traumatic stress. He was filming an intervention reality series for MTV entitled “Gone Too Far” in an effort to help other addicts recognize their problems and enter rehab for treatment. Eight episodes had been filmed when DJ AM was found dead in his New York apartment. The coroner found cocaine, Oxycodone, Vicodin, Ativan, Klonopin, Xanax and Benadryl in his system. DJ AM was 36 when he died.

Corey Haim (December 23, 1971-March 10, 2010, age 38)
Actor Corey Haim shot to fame in the ‘80’s as a teen idol for his roles in various hit movies including “Lost Boys” and “License to Drive”. Success brought Corey money, fame, extraordinarily devoted fans, extravagant spending, a fast lifestyle in Hollywood and substance abuse. Unfortunately, Corey eventually became as famous for his drug abuse as his acting. Plum job offers dwindled, and Corey filed for bankruptcy at the age of 25 in 1997. Corey made several attempts over the years to achieve sobriety and regain credibility in the industry with varying degrees of success. In 2007, Corey was reunited with his frequent co-star and estranged best friend Corey Feldman on the A&E reality series “The Two Coreys”. The show was cancelled during its second season amid allegations of Corey Haim’s descent back into drug addiction. Corey was staging another comeback with several movie deals reportedly in production when his mother found him unconscious in the apartment she shared with him. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at a nearby hospital. The media widely reported the troubled star died due to an apparent overdose. Officially, the cause of death was found to be pneumonia. Toxicology reports revealed the following drugs in Corey’s blood when he died: antipsychotic medication, a muscle relaxer, tranquilizers, THC (a chemical found in marijuana), cough suppressant, an antihistamine, ibuprofen and two different antidepressants. Drugs may not have been the official cause of the former star’s death on that fateful day, but his drug addiction robbed him of his life. Corey was 38 when he died.

Unfortunately, these celebrity stories are not unique. Death and addiction are inextricably linked. The downward spiral for addicts is inevitable without intervening help. Each addict has their own story and their own battle. There are people out there dying every day from addiction in anonymity. There are addicts out there walking closer to death’s door every day. They are one pill, one puff, one uneaten bite, one laxative, one injection, one snort or one sip away from dying.

Life is our most precious commodity. We must work to preserve it. Addiction must be treated to avoid fatal consequences. The grip of addiction does not have to be deadly. Let these unnecessary deaths inspire others to seek help before it is too late. Let these stories serve as a cautionary tale for those who need help to find it. Today. Reach out for a helping hand. Make that call. Get the professional help you need. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Never lose hope. If you feel you or a loved one has an addiction issue, please call Shades of Hope at 800-588-4673 for a free private consultation.