UPDATED: 12:00 p.m. ET, Sept. 10, 2021
Throughout history, drug addictions have plagued the lives of so many celebrities. Drugs have always been a part of celebrity culture. Actors, singers, politicians, even social media influencers have all abused drugs, which has led to the deaths of some of our favorite celebrities. Imagine being poor, then one day you wake up with access to millions of dollars.
Your fame and fortune can get you whatever you want, including drugs. For many Americans, a drug habit can set you back financially, but not celebrities. They have access to substances the average person can’t get their hands on. Many entertainers feel the only way to escape is to numb their world by heavy drug use, which, many times, can lead to drug overdoses. Highly addictive substances like heroin and cocaine have been drugs of choice by celebrities for decades. They also happen to be the most lethal.
Cocaine, which is also known as the “party drug” is especially very popular among entertainers. Although not as lethal as the opioids, it is extremely addictive. Since it can be mixed with an opioid like fentanyl and go undetected, some celebrities have been unintentionally taking the opioid and overdosing by accident.
Comedian Fuquan Johnson was one of two people who overdosed on cocaine laced with fentanyl at a party in Los Angeles on Sept. 2. A third person survived the overdose. Johnson’s recent death has sparked widespread concern in the broader entertainment industry that more celebrities could be at risk of the same fate because so many of them use cocaine from possibly the same source.
On top of that, actor Michael K. Williams was found dead in his Brooklyn penthouse on Sept. 6 from an apparent heroin overdose. Although an autopsy was not immediately performed, authorities reported that there was evidence Williams overdosed on heroin.
Even though Williams’ admitted fight with drug addiction is well documented, his death still caught people by surprise. Coupled with the death of Johnson in Los Angeles, the entertainment community was shocked and many folks were left asking questions that were going unanswered.
To be sure, drug overdoses aren’t a new phenomenon to entertainers. Michael Jackson and Prince both overdosed on opioids, but they are far from the only ones who died in that or a similar manner.
Keep reading to find a running list (that we, hopefully, won’t need to update too often) of notable Black people who died following drug overdoses.
1. Fuquan JohnsonSource:Getty
Comedian Fuquan Johnson was one of three people to overdose from a fentanyl-laced batch of cocaine that killed him and one other person in Los Angeles on Sept. 3, 2021. Johnson was 43 years old.
2. Frankie LymonSource:Getty
Frankie Lymon, an R&B singer who rose to fame as the lead singer in the 1950’s group The Teenagers, died of a heroin overdose in 1968 at the age of 25.
3. Dinah WashingtonSource:Getty
Dinah Washington, a jazz, blues and R&B singer who enjoyed a successful career in the 1950s, died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in 1963. She was only 39 years old.
4. Rob PilatusSource:Getty
Rob Pilatus, one-half of the Grammy Award-winning 1980s pop music duo Milli Vaniili that was later exposed as not having actually sung their songs, died from a drug overdose in 1998 after he consumed a deadly mixture of prescription pills and alcohol. He was 32 years old.
5. David RuffinSource:Getty
David Ruffin, who rose to fame as a member of the R&B group The Temptations, died from a drug overdose in 1991. His girlfriend at the time said he was using cocaine. Ruffin was 50 years old when he died.
6. Pimp CSource:Getty
Chad Butler, a rapper and member of Texas duo UGK who is more popularly known by his stage name, Pimp C, died in 2008 from what MTV called “an overdose that was triggered by a large consumption of codeine medication combined with a pre-existing sleep condition.” He was 33 years old.
7. Chris “Mac Daddy” KellySource:Getty
Chris Kelly, who became famous as a teenage rapping member of the group Kriss Kross in the early 1990s, died from an accidental overdose “caused by the combined toxic effects of heroin, cocaine, ethanol and hydrocodone, and alprazolam,” CNN reported after his death in 2013. He was 34 years old.
8. Shock GSource:Getty
Rapper Shock G, a founding member of the Bay Area hip-hop collective Digital Underground, was found dead in a Florida hotel room on April 22, 2021, following what Deadline called an “accidental overdose” from the effects of fentanyl, ethanol and methamphetamine in his system. He was 57 years old.
9. Ol’ Dirty BastardSource:Getty
Rapper and key founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, died of a drug overdose in 2004 that was triggered by the combination of cocaine and Tramadol, a synthetic opioid painkiller. Born Russell Jones, ODB was just 35 years old when he died.
10. Billie HolidaySource:Getty
Billie Holiday, the legendary jazz singer and songwriter, died from an overdose in 1959 following years of being addicted to heroin. Her official cause of death was “alcohol- and drug-related complications.” The singer known as Lady Day was 44 years old when she died.
11. Eugene “Big Daddy” LipscombSource:Getty
Former NFL player Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb died of a heroin overdose in 1963, the year after he retired from professional football. He was 31 years old.
12. Len BiasSource:Getty
Len Bias, a college basketball legend at the University of Maryland, died of a cocaine overdose three days after the Boston Celtics selected him as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. He was 22 years old.
13. Ike TurnerSource:Getty
Ike Turner, a rock n’ roll pioneer who became infamous for his tumultuous marriage to Tina Turner, died of a cocaine overdose in 2008. He was 76 years old.
Prince, the legendary singer, songwriter and performer, died of an opioid overdose in 2016. It was later determined that the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl played a role in Prince’s death. He was 57 years old.
15. Michael JacksonSource:Getty
Michael Jackson, the legendary “King Of Pop” music whose career spanned decades since he was a child performer, died in 2009 from an accidental overdose of propofol, a powerful sedative administered by the singer’s personal doctor. Jackson was 50 years old.
16. Juice WRLDSource:Getty
Juice WRLD, a rising star in rap music, died from a drug overdose caused by oxycodone and codeine toxicity when the rapper intentionally swallowed the drugs as police were searching his personal jet in 2020. Ingesting so many drugs at once caused him to go into a seizure that promoted his death. He was 21 years old.
17. Michael K. WilliamsSource:Getty
Michael K. Williams, a transcendent actor whose performance as an openly gay drug dealer-robbing gangster on the hit cable TV drama, “The Wire,” was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Sept. 6, 2021, following a suspected drug overdose. While no official cause of death was immediately reported, authorities said they found heroin in Williams’ apartment. He was 54 years old.
18. Jimi HendrixSource:Getty
Jimi Hendrix, widely hailed as the greatest rock n’ roll guitarist of all time, died following an accidental overdose on sleeping pills that prompted him to choke, or suffocate, on his own vomit while he slept. Hendrix was only 27 years old.