Addiction and Death
One of the most unfortunate, most unavoidable pitfalls of a lifestyle centered around indulgence and addiction is the threat of death that comes with it. Drink and drugs – both legal and illegal – can be deadly, and celebrity status often means easier access and less of an inclination towards addiction recovery.
Marilyn Monroe is often considered to be a trendsetter for celebrities to come, who set the template for what became the modern concept of a celebrity star. Sadly, her lifestyle, fame, and struggles with depression saw her seeking solace in substance abuse, finally leading to her untimely death in 1962 at just 36 years old.
Like Marilyn Monroe and her setting the standard for future stars, Elvis Presley was one of the biggest – if not the biggest – influences of American rock and roll. Unfortunately, he also set the standard for the excess that would come with it and indulged an appetite for hedonism that led to his death in 1977 at the age of 42. An autopsy revealed fourteen different drugs in his system at the time of death.
Fans of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade might recognize River Phoenix as the younger version of Dr. Jones in the film’s opening sequence. Phoenix was seen as Hollywood’s next big star in the late 80s and early 90s, already carving a path for himself as a talented actor and teen heartthrob in Stand By Me, The Mosquito Coast and My Own Private Idaho. But, his habits as part Hollywood’s youthful “Brat Pack” saw him succumb to a combination of cocaine and heroin in 1993 at just 23 years old.
While most people associate rock star deaths of the 90s with Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, we have another example of a tragic example of ongoing addiction finally taking its toll. Singer Scott Weiland, best known for fronting alternative rock band Stone Temple Pilots through the 90s, would battle with addiction for his entire career. Despite praise as a singer and songwriter, Weiland would battle with both himself and bandmates, until finally losing his personal war with his vices in 2015 from an overdose of cocaine and several other drugs. At 48, Weiland left behind a 17-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter.
Teenagers and Celebrities
This is just a handful of examples of an incredibly long list of celebrities who have died as a result of well-publicized addiction problems. Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger and more recently Chris Cornell are just a few more famous, often idolized artists who have succumbed to the burden of substance abuse. One thing that many of these celebrities have in common is their appeal to a youth audience, from Presley in the 1950s, all the way up to Cornell through the 90s and 2000s. When you couple that appeal with a penchant for a hedonistic and dangerous celebrity lifestyle, you see the potentially lethal influence they can have on youth culture.