10 Celebrities Who Died from a Heroin-Cocaine Speedball
Many celebrities take the live fast, die young idea literally and pass away without ever reaching their full potential and illegal narcotics are often the reason why. In the celebrity world, where the use of hard drugs is widespread, speedballing (in which heroin and cocaine are injected together in the same syringe) is among the most notorious of killers. Mixing a heroine, a powerful depressant, with a stimulant as potent as cocaine makes this cocktail more dangerous than taking either drug straight and dramatically increases the chances of an overdose. This spectacularly dangerous way of getting high has prematurely claimed the lives of a number of promising young stars. Here we list 10 celebrities who died from a heroin-cocaine speedball.
10. River Phoenix
River Phoenix rose to fame as the character of Gordie in classic coming-of-age movie, Stand by Me, and developed into a teen heartthrob and a promising actor. Following his breakout film role, the oldest Phoenix brother moved into more mature territory with his Academy Award-nominated role in Running on Empty and the box office hit Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The young idol had something of a squeaky-clean image as an activist and charity worker, which is why it was so shocking to the general public when, onOctober 30, 1993, he was found suffering from seizures on the sidewalk outside Hollywoods Viper Room after taking large amounts of cocaine and heroin (as well as other drugs such as diazepam, ephedrine). The actor was rushed to hospital but could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead, aged just 23. Who would have thought that Gordie would end up like that?
9. Chris Farley
In the late 90s, Chris Farleys career was reaching its peak. He had been one of the top Saturday Night Live performers of the decade, where hed brought a frat-boy charm to characters like the depressive motivational speaker Matt Foley and chunky Chippendales dancer Barney. His movie career was also beginning to take off, with roles in films such as Waynes World and Dreamworks’ Shrek (for which he had recorded nearly 90% of the dialogue for the title character). However, like John Belushi before him, he had numerous problems with drug and alcohol abuse, and his life was tragically cut short by a fatal cocktail of morphine and cocaine in his home in the John Hancock Center in Chicago in December 1997. It seems that just as 27 is an unlucky age for rock stars, 33 is an unlucky one for SNL actors
8. Ken Caminiti
Ken Caminiti was a baseball player for several Major League teams including the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres (of which more later…), the winner of three Golden Glove awards, and 1996 National League MVP. He was also an admitted steroid and hard drug user who struggled with addiction throughout his life. He not only abused heroin; he was a serious drinker who went into rehab several times, once after being arrested for possession of cocaine and ordered to get treatment by a Houston judge. On October 5, 2004, Caminiti was sentenced to 180 days in jail after violating his probation by testing positive for cocaine. His “death by speedball” came just five days after the sentence (and following a period of depression), a major contributing factor being the size of his heart, which had been enlarged by years of substance abuse.
7. Layne Staley
Grunge band Alice in Chains could have been another Nirvana, and maybe would have been if singer Layne Staley had taken his fatal shot of narcotics in the 90s instead of in 2002. As the frontman and co-lyricist of the band, Staley was noted for his distinctive vocal style, which bore some similarities to the half-screaming style of other contemporaries such as Eddie Vedder. Alice in Chains were the epitome of the 90s grunge scene, but Staley was constantly battling with depression. By the end of the 90s he had become a virtual recluse, isolating himself from his peers and habitually abusing drugs until he eventually overdosed. After remaining undiscovered for two weeks, Staley’s body was found in his home by police, a needle still in his arm. He had injected a fatal speedball of heroin and cocaine. We might wonder what else Alice in Chains could have produced if Staley had lived on…
6. Mitch Hedberg
Comedian Mitch Hedberg had a style which mixed awkward and deadpan in a way that made Andy Kaufman look conventional. He was similar to British comedian Tommy Cooper in that he told almost nothing but bad jokes, but managed to sell them in a way that made him the funniest thing on the planet. He was also reportedly so shy that he had to constantly wear sunglasses on stage. Sadly, his path to comedy greatness was cut short when he overdosed on heroin and cocaine in a New Jersey hotel room in 2005. Weirdly enough, he once claimed in Penthouse that he wanted to die from an overdose, but only after he was famous.
5. Sebastian Horsley
Self-admitted cocaine addict, prostitute patronizer and artist/writer Sebastian Horsley is best known for undergoing voluntary crucifixion in the Philippines. This wasnt even a punishment it was all research for a series of paintings he was doing on the subject. He also spent most of his life engaging in such crazy high risk behaviors as diving into shark-infested waters and taking potentially lethal amounts of drugs. Unfortunately, one of these bouts of intoxication did turn out to be fatal, and he was found in his home, having overdosed on heroin and cocaine, in June 2010. Despite his reckless behavior and occasional romanticization of death, his close friends and relatives were convinced his overdose was an accident. The journalist Toby Young said: If it had been suicide Sebastian would not have passed up the opportunity to write a note. It’s a tragic loss of life.
4. Brent Mydland
Sasquatch look-alike Brent Mydland was the longest-term keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, serving from 1979 to 1990. His distinctive psychedelic rock sound and terrific song-writing contributions quickly made him an indispensable part of the band, explaining his longevity compared to many of the other members (the band went through 12 lineup changes in their 30-year career). In 1990, Mydland was found in his home, having died from a heroin/cocaine overdose, aged just 37. He had just come off tour.
3. Eric Show
Eric Show has been described as the winningest pitcher in San Diego Padres history, but the sportsman also faced terrible battles with drug addiction and alienation. The child of an abusive father, Show began drinking early, got into a pistol-packing confrontation at a party while still a college student, and was pressurized into following a baseball career. When he became a part of the Padres squad he was regarded as an eccentric by most of the team members for doing things like joining the John Birch Society, reading Ayn Rand novels and (probably accidentally) hitting a fellow baseball player on the cheekbone with a ball during a game. After his retirement from baseball in 1990, he quickly took to abusing drugs such as cocaine, heroin and crystal meth, and eventually died from a heart attack after taking a speedball, on 16 March 1994 ironically whilst in rehab.
2. Hillel Slovak
Hillel Slovak (far right) was the original hard-rocking lead guitarist of the hedonistic funk band The Red Hot Chili Peppers. His improvisational style helped to create the distinctive sound of early RHCP, and he also taught the bands fourth member, Flea ( left), to play bass. Unfortunately, he and good friend Anthony Kiedis were also major, long-term heroin users. Kiedis eventually managed to kick the drug, but Slovak struggled more with withdrawal, and continued to slide further into addiction and isolation from the band. In June 1988 he ODd in his house and was found two days later by the police. The guitarists death, and Kiedis own struggles with drug addiction, would later inspire several Chili Peppers songs, including My Lovely Man from the bands seminal 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
1. John Belushi
Belushi, Belushi, Belushi. The Saturday Night Live actor and star of movies like The Blues Brothers and Animal House was a charismatic comic genius, but also a substance-obsessed wild man who was just as crazy as characters like his iconic frat boy Bluto. He did alcohol, heroin and pills in huge quantities, and sadly it killed him very early in life. His body was found by his personal trainer in his room in West Hollywood after he suffered a speedball overdose on March 5, 1982. Ex-backup singer and groupie Cathy Evelyn Smith later admitted to administering the dose and was subsequently charged with manslaughter, serving 15 months in jail. Belushi died at the age of only 33, and its a terrible thought to imagine how many years of brilliant comedy were lost through that drug overdose. Its even worse to think thats probably how Bluto would have ended up if he were a real person. Damn, not even a Toga! Toga! Toga! can make that picture less depressing now
Bonus: King George V of Great Britain
A King of Great Britain is not the first person you would think of as a major drug fiend. The crusty old monarch was chronically ill with lung disease for several years, but his death is believed to have been accelerated when his personal physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, stupidly gave him a mixed dose of cocaine and morphine. The man is definitely a contrast with the other people in this list (for one thing, being a royal, he had no discernible talent!), but it just goes to show that, even in the 1930s, speedballing was a problem.
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