Newspaper clipping of Amy Winehouse

Celebrities That Overdosed: A Look at Women We Lost Too Soon to Overdose

From singers to actresses to personalities, we’ve seen the brightest stars explode and fade, blessing us with their talent before succumbing to their demons. Let’s take a look at five women we lost too soon to an overdose. and the statistics behind the drugs they died from.

Judy Garland


Judy Garland

Frances Ethel Gumm was much better known to the world as Judy Garland, a singer, actress, dancer, and vaudevillian. She had won all sorts of awards from a Golden Globe to a special Tony to a Grammy and an Oscar. But she rose to fame at an early age and that affected her both physically as well as mentally. Pressure to look better at any age, but especially when you’re a teen can twist a person up inside and studio execs upped that pressure constantly. Garland plunged into alcohol and substance abuse and ultimately overdosed on barbiturates at the age of 47.

Anna Nicole-Smith

Anna Nicole-Smith

Born Vickie Lee Hogan, Anna Nicole-Smith first gained fame as the 1993 Playmate of the Year. She married at 17 and again at 26 years old to the billionaire 89-year-old J. Howard Marshall. She tragically lost her own son Daniel to an overdose of antidepressants including Zoloft, Lexapro, and methadone. Nicole-Smith’s own life ended in 2007 with an accidental overdose of the sedative chloral hydrate that became increasingly lethal because it combined with other prescription drugs in her system, specifically four benzodiazepines: Klonopin (Clonazepam), Ativan (Lorazepam), Serax (Oxazepam), and Valium (Diazepam). Furthermore, she had taken Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) and Topamax (Topiramate), an anticonvulsant AMPA/Kainate antagonist, which likely contributed to the sedative effect of chloral hydrate and the benzodiazepines. Although the individual levels of any of the benzodiazepines in her system would not have been sufficient to cause death, their combination with a high dose of chloral hydrate led to her overdose.?


Benzodiazepines (BZD, BZs), sometimes called “benzos”, are a class of psychoactive drugs. In 2008, approximately 5.2% of US adults aged 18 to 80 years used benzodiazepines. The percentage who used benzodiazepines increased with age from 2.6% (18-35 years) to 5.4% (36-50 years) to 7.4% (51-64 years) to 8.7% (65-80 years). Benzodiazepine use was nearly twice as prevalent in women as men. The proportion of benzodiazepine use that was long-term increased with age from 14.7% (18-35 years) to 31.4% (65-80 years), while the proportion that received a benzodiazepine prescription from a psychiatrist decreased with age from 15.0% (18-35 years) to 5.7% (65-80 years). In all age groups, roughly one-quarter of individuals receiving a benzodiazepine involved long-acting benzodiazepine use.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse

Amy Jade Winehouse was a singer/songwriter with a truly phenomenal voice and talent. At the age of just 27, she died from alcohol poisoning after years of alcohol and substance abuse. In her past, she’d accidentally overdosed once on heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine, and alcohol  and those issues plagued her repeatedly in her last few years as she started and stopped and started substance abuse in an endless cycle that only ended when she died. At death, her blood alcohol level was reportedly 0.416%. The lethal level is somewhere between 0.3% and 0.4% in most people, but for long-term heavy drinkers, it could be higher.


Alcohol poisoning is usually caused by binge drinking at high intensity. Approximately 38 million U.S. adults report binge drinking an average of four times per month and consuming an average of eight drinks per episode. During 2010?2012, an annual average of 2,221 alcohol poisoning deaths (8.8 deaths per 1 million population) occurred among persons aged over 15 years in the United States. Of those deaths, 1,681 (75.7%) involved adults aged 35?64 years, and 1,696 (76.4%) involved men. Although non-Hispanic whites accounted for the majority of alcohol poisoning deaths (67.5%; 1,500 deaths), the highest age-adjusted death rate was among American Indians/Alaska Natives (49.1 per 1 million). The age-adjusted rate of alcohol poisoning deaths in states ranged from 5.3 per 1 million in Alabama to 46.5 per 1 million in Alaska.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin was a soul/blues singer who shot to fame in the 1960s. Her career was cut short at age 27 when she died of a heroin overdose.


As heroin use has increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths:

  • Heroin-related overdose deaths increased fivefold from 2010 to 2016.
  • From 2015 to 2016, heroin overdose death rates increased by 19.5%, with nearly 15,500 people dying in 2016.
  • In 2016, males aged 25-44 had the highest heroin death rate at 15.5 per 100,000, which was an increase of 17.4% from 2015.

Past misuse of prescription opioids is the strongest risk factor for starting heroin use. Especially among people who became dependent upon or abused prescription opioids in the past year. This indicates that the transition from prescription opioid non-medical use to heroin use may be part of the progression to addiction.

  • More than nine in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug. 
  • Among new heroin users, approximately three out of four report having abused prescription opioids prior to using heroin.
  • Among people presenting for treatment for addiction to opioids, and who initiated the use of an opioid in 2015, about two out of three started with prescription opioids.
Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston

Another stunning singer with a powerful, beautiful voice that resonated with millions the world over, Whitney Houston is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time. Sadly and tragically, in 2012 she accidentally drowned in the bathtub, with heart disease and cocaine use as contributing factors. Toxicology results revealed additional drugs in her system including diphenhydramine (Benadryl), alprazolam (Xanax), cannabis, and cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril).


According to a CDC report, drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans in 2016. Nearly two-thirds of these deaths (66%) involved a prescription or illicit opioid. Overdose deaths increased in all categories of drugs examined for men and women, people ages 15 and older, all races and ethnicities, and across all levels of urbanization.

Dolores O'Riordan

Dolores O’Riordan

Dolores O’Riordan is one of the most famous celebrities that overdosed and died in the 2010s. Best known as the lead vocalist for rock band The Cranberries, was a gifted singer-songwriter with a hauntingly beautiful voice. She tragically passed away in 2018 due to accidental drowning in a bathtub following intoxication. 


A coroner’s report stated that O’Riordan’s system contained therapeutic levels of prescription medication, but excessive alcohol consumption led to her drowning. She went on to become one of the most famous female singers who died of an overdose. 


Alcohol addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using. 


Globally, alcohol abuse is the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability. These concerns increase the need for accessible drug rehab for women to meet the unique needs of women struggling with substance abuse and alcohol rehab for women to do the same for those who need freedom from alcohol addiction.

Lisa Robin Kelly

Lisa Robin Kelly

Actress Lisa Robin Kelly, who played Laurie Forman on the hit sitcom “That ’70s Show,” battled addiction for many years. Unfortunately, her struggles led to her untimely death in 2013 due to multiple drug intoxication, making her another one of the beloved celebrities that overdosed in the 2010s. The substances found in her system included alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other unspecified drugs. 


Multiple drug use, as in the case of many female celebrity overdoses, can increase the chances of overdose due to the synergistic effects of combining substances, leading to suppressed breathing, heart problems, and seizures. The presence of benzodiazepines can especially raise overdose risk due to their ability to enhance the effects of other drugs.

Elisa Bridges

Elisa Bridges

Elisa Bridges, a model and actress best known for her work with Playboy, passed away in 2002 from a drug overdose. The coroner’s report identified heroin and methamphetamine in her system, reflecting a dangerous combination of substances. 


Mixing opioids like heroin with stimulants such as methamphetamine can result in unpredictable and often fatal effects. Heroin slows down the body’s functions, including breathing, while methamphetamine accelerates them, putting immense stress on the body’s vital organs.

Margaux Hemingway

Margaux Hemingway

Margaux Hemingway, a model and actress from the famous Hemingway lineage, tragically died of a phenobarbital overdose in 1996. 


Phenobarbital is a type of barbiturate used primarily as a sedative and anticonvulsant. Its use can lead to physical and psychological dependence, and an overdose can cause respiratory distress, coma, or even death. Despite its dangerous potential, phenobarbital is still used in many countries due to its effectiveness and low cost. Addiction to this drug is often addressed in dual diagnosis treatment for women.

Brenda Fassie

Known as the “Queen of African Pop,” Brenda Fassie was a South African singer with a massive following. She tragically became another one of the most famous celebrities who overdosed in the 2000s.


Known for her fearless songs about urban Africa and her personal life, she passed away in 2004 from a cocaine overdose. Fassie had a turbulent personal life filled with stories of drug addiction. According to reports, she was found unconscious at her home by her manager and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.


Cocaine is a powerful and addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, approximately 18 million people globally misused cocaine in 2018. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that the rate of death from cocaine overdose began to rise sharply around 2012 and continued to rise through 2018.

Phyllis Hyman

Phyllis Hyman, a soul singer and actress, was known for her distinctive voice and stage presence. In 1995, she tragically took her own life by overdosing on pentobarbital and secobarbital, both of which are barbiturates. 


These drugs suppress the central nervous system and can lead to death when taken in high quantities. A significant proportion of suicides are associated with some form of substance use disorder, and it is crucial to address mental health as part of substance abuse treatment.

Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington, known as the most popular black female recording artist of the ’50s, passed away in 1963 from an overdose of diet pills and alcohol. Her passing was one of the most famous female celebrity drug overdoses of the 1960s.


Mixing alcohol with other drugs, prescription or illicit, can lead to dangerous interactions. In this case, the diet pills likely contained amphetamines, a type of stimulant that, when combined with alcohol, can lead to serious health risks such as heart problems, seizures, and in severe cases, death. 


The combination of amphetamines and alcohol can also have contrasting effects on the body. While amphetamines may mask the sedative effects of alcohol, allowing an individual to drink more, alcohol can also intensify the side effects of amphetamines, causing a potentially deadly outcome.


Additionally, it’s important to note that amphetamines are often used in diet pills due to their appetite-suppressing properties. However, misuse can lead to amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) dependence, which can result in a range of harmful physical and mental health outcomes.


Dinah Washington’s tragic passing, another one of history’s most tragic famous female overdoses, underscores the potential risks and dangers of combining substances, particularly those that may seem harmless, like diet pills, with other substances like alcohol. It highlights the importance of using medications responsibly, under the guidance of a healthcare professional, and the potentially fatal consequences of substance misuse.

Drug And Alcohol Rehab At Casa Capri Recovery

At Casa Capri Recovery, we believe in providing a safe and supportive environment for women in recovery. We offer women’s substance abuse treatment programs aimed at addressing the unique needs of women struggling with addiction. Our services range from detoxification assistance to intensive inpatient treatment, incorporating therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, trauma-focused therapy, holistic wellness practices, and peer support.


We understand that recovery is a personal journey that requires individualized care. Our team of dedicated professionals is committed to providing compassionate, evidence-based treatments that can help our clients move toward a life of sobriety, health, and fulfillment.


Remember, there is no shame in seeking help for substance abuse or addiction. The tragic stories of these talented artists underscore the potentially deadly consequences of these disorders. But with the right support, treatment, and perseverance, recovery is not just possible, but achievable and sustainable.


If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, remember that you are not alone. Contact Casa Capri Recovery today to learn more about our programs and how we can support you on your journey to recovery.


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