What Stars Did We Lose in 2016 to Drugs or Alcohol?

It seemed like 2016 was stealing away some of our favorite cultural icons—many, far too young. While a few were known to die from drug-related causes, most others died from heart attacks, cancer or other causes. It could be overlooked that drug use and excessive alcohol use are very hard on the body. In some cases, a body may never fully heal from the damage done.

Because of the intense pressures, a celebrity may resort to drug or alcohol abuse.

Here are some of the well-known individuals we lost in 2016:

  • Carrie Fisher, 60, died days after suffering a massive heart attack on a plane. She had been open about her past cocaine and alcohol use in interviews. Because cocaine is a strong stimulant, it speeds up the heart while it constricts blood vessels. This combined effect puts severe stress on the heart and arteries.
  • George Michael, 53, died of heart failure. He had earlier admitted to using cocaine and marijuana and had been arrested three times for drugs. Marijuana also stresses the heart.
  • Matt Roberts, 38, former 3 Doors Down guitarist, died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.
  • Shawty Lo, rapper, 40, died in a single car crash. News reports said his body smelled of alcohol and he had pills in his pocket.
  • Prince, 57, died from an overdose of fentanyl, an intensely strong painkiller, after suffering debilitating pain for a long period. He did not have a prescription for fentanyl which seems to indicate he had purchased it on the illicit market.

Did Past Drug Abuse Also Shorten These Lives?

David Bowie, 69, died of liver cancer. Earlier in his life, he talked about the decade he had spent addicted to cocaine which he used along with alcohol. Both drugs are punishing for a liver.

Paul Kantner, 74, founder of Jefferson Airplane, died of multiple organ failure and septic shock. He had previously commented on his early cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and hallucinogen use.

Glenn Frey, 67, co-founder of the Eagles. According to one news source, he had used so much cocaine in his performing days that he needed surgery to repair his nose twice. In the end, he succumbed to complications of rheumatoid arthritis, pneumonia and colitis, and possibly the side effects of drugs taken for these conditions.

Dave Mirra, 41, BMX rider, killed himself. He had suffered from drug addiction and effects of a traumatic brain injury resulting from being hit by a car in his teens.

Rob Ford, former mayor of Toronto, 46, admitted to cocaine use and excessive alcohol use while he was mayor. A direct connection is not known, but because cocaine constricts blood vessels, it can affect abdominal health. And alcohol abuse has been associated with both colon and stomach cancers. It’s possible that his drug use shortened his life.

Rock musicians may work around a large quantity of drugs and may become addicted.

Nick Menza, 51, former Megadeth drummer, collapsed while playing and passed away from a heart attack. After he left Megadeth in 1998, he struggled with drug and alcohol abuse.

A Drug-Free Life is Healthier and May be Longer

When a person’s health is undamaged by drug use or excessive alcohol abuse, it has the strongest immune system and best ability to recover from minor ailments and prevent major ones. We may not be able to definitely conclude that these lives were shortened by their use of drugs or alcohol—so we leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

Our wish is that you and your family have the benefit of a drug-free life that provides a long, healthy and productive life. If you or someone you care about needs help, contact us today.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.