Drugs in Hollywood: Understanding the Lore

By November 28, 2018 Food for thought

Drugs in Hollywood are part of it’s lore. It is one of the underlying reasons why there is a certain romanticism associated with narcotics. People view addicted individuals as rebels, artists, and misunderstood souls. Stories about drugs in Hollywood and other celebrities involved in drug abuse have appeared in different news outlets. It is strange that we see celebrities this way, but regular people battling addiction are shunned and perceived negatively.

With the prevalence of drugs in Hollywood people have presumed that drug abuse in Hollywood occurs because celebrities might have easy access to illegal substances. Insiders allege that drug abuse in Hollywood often happens during parties. Such gatherings help link celebrities to people who can help them whenever they need to get their fix.  A single phone call to the right person can supply their need for drugs in Hollywood.

 Given the easy access combined with the amount of money many Hollywood stars make and the party/luxury lifestyle, it is easy to see why drugs in Hollywood are so prevelant. But what message is this sending to the fans and avid film wathchers, especially younger kids?

Possible Reasons Behind Drug Addiction

As if large sums of money, a luxury/party lifestyle and the easy access isn’t a perfect recipe for drug abuse there are even more reasons for the prevalence of drugs in Hollywood.


Hollywood stars once were associated with specific movie studios in the 1930s through the 1960s. Under the so-called star system, actors and actresses had to behave in ways that made their home studios proud. They had to act certain ways on screen and in real life. With this scenario, Hollywood stars were pressured to fulfill whatever responsibilities the studios and the press expected of them. Studio and media expectations collided for Hollywood star Judy Garland. Sadly, this collusion produced tragic results. Garland’s studio allegedly gave her stimulant drugs known as amphetamines to give her the energy to finish her projects. Doctors then prescribed barbiturate drugs to help her sleep. Garland struggled with drug abuse and other conditions until she died of a barbiturate overdose at the age of forty-seven in 1969.


Depression in Hollywood can also be quite common as people who finally reach their ultimate dream and realize that all the fame and money in the world can not buy happiness. On the other hand, many go to Hollywood with hopes and dreams and fall short, this can lead to depression and substance abuse as well.

In 2008, the death of actor Heath Ledger shocked his millions of fans around the world. The Academy Award-nominated star of Brokeback Mountain allegedly died from an accidental drug overdose, which might point to the availability of drugs in Hollywood. Some sources speculate that Ledger took drugs to combat depression, insomnia, and pneumonia. In fact, using drugs and alcohol is a common way people many people deal with depression and other mental health issues. Sources also state that the actor refused to enter rehab in 2006 for heroin abuse, a possible sign of dependency on drugs in Hollywood.


Hollywood lore and reputation creates for a dangerous mix for drug abuse. Many actors view their work as art, and many artists say they use drugs to enhance their creativity or to perform better. This can cause dependence and addiction rather easily. Eventually the person becomes so reliant on the drugs and the creativity it once brought out is gone.

Stars Who Don’t Do Drugs or Drink Alcohol

Amid the reported rampant use of drugs and alcohol in Hollywood, there are still stars who have opted not to indulge in such substances. These celebrities have remained sober and drug-free and have lived healthy and clean lives:

  • Jennifer Hudson. The actress and singer had the chance to imagine how it felt to be drug dependent. That was for a role in the 2013 film The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete. In the movie, the actress was a heroin addict, a character opposite from her real life. She admitted that playing the character was difficult since she has never tried drugs, or even alcohol, in her entire life.
  • Blake Lively. The Gossip Girl actress proudly shared that she has always lived a sober lifestyle. It means that she has never been part of the scene of people who abuse alcohol and drugs in Hollywood.
  • Jennifer Lopez. While some people might say that they are social drinkers only, the singer, dancer, and actress is not even close to that. JLo is someone who does not drink alcohol or use drugs in Hollywood. She commented that drinking alcohol could make someone’s skin look bad.
  • Tyra Banks. The supermodel, host, and actress said she never tried drugs, but admitted tasting alcohol when she was twelve years old.

Stars Who Quit Drugs or Alcohol

Aside from those who use drugs in Hollywood and those who have always maintained sober lifestyles, there are also those who have tried drugs and alcohol but decided to quit:

  • Robert Downey Jr., The popular Iron Man star used to be among the names associated with drugs in Hollywood. In the early 2000s, he found sobriety and began living a clean lifestyle after meeting producer Susan Levin on the set of the movie Gothika. She reportedly gave him an ultimatum that encouraged him to quit. Downey and Levin married in 2005.
  • Drew Barrmore. The former child actress had a well-documented battle with drugs and alcohol. She even attended rehab before her thirteenth birthday. At the age of fourteen, she was already living alone as an emancipated minor. As an adult, she lives a sober lifestyle as an actress, producer, entrepreneur, and mother.

Stories about drugs in Hollywood continue, but these stars provide evidence that people can live sober lives and have successful careers in the entertainment industry.

Hollywood Stars Who Died from Drug Abuse

  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman – heroin overdose
  • Heath Ledger – opioids, anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills
  • Chris Farley – cocaine and morphine
  • Anna Nicole Smith – methadone and drugs to treat anxiety and depression
  • John Belushi (Blues Brothers/SNL)- heroin and cocaine overdose
  • Judy Garland – (Dorthy in Wizard of Oz) – barbiturate overdose
  • Cory Monteith – (Glee) – heroin and alcohol
  • Marilyn Monroe – Suicide by overdose

What Message Does Drugs in Hollywood Send to the Public

Many in the public are openly aware or suspicious of drug abuse in Hollywood. In fact, many people may even refuse or be cautious if a loved one is going there to chance their dreams because of the stories of substance abuse in the town. Most importantly, what message does this send to the kids when they find out their idols have overdoses or are addicted to drugs. Lastly, with Hollywood movies glorifying substance abuse, does this make kids more eager to try drugs? These questions need to be taken more seriously or Hollywood will forever remain a place that is negatively associated with drug abuse.