Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Peace Valley Recovery Editorial Staff,
Last Updated: August 17, 2021

Heroin addiction does not discriminate. Anyone can find themselves trapped in a cycle of use and abuse no matter who they are or where they come from. As more celebrities open up about their recovery, it’s clear that even some of the biggest names in the world are not immune to the effects of heroin addiction.

Celebrities who share their stories decrease the significant stigma associated with heroin addiction. It’s not an easy path to be on but they show that anyone can be affected and anyone can recover. Continue reading to learn more about the stories of 10 celebrities who overcame heroin addiction.

1. Russell Brand

Russell Brand’s struggle with heroin addiction is anything but a secret. The English comedian extraordinaire is outspoken about the years he spent grappling with alcohol and other substances. He started using at the age of 19 and felt immediately at ease in the haze of his heroin high.

Brand openly discusses his inability to cope with the complexity of life and the comfort he found in the easy escape that substances provide. These feelings are all too familiar for anyone who has a history of substance abuse. It’s hard to let go of the simple, fast-acting solution that becomes a consistent source of comfort over time.

Drugs softened the sting of loneliness, alienation, and disconnection that plagued Brand when he was younger. He chased that first heroin high for 15 years until he came crashing down to his rock bottom in 2003.

Chip Sommers, Brand’s manager at the time, stepped in for a timely intervention. He warned Brand of the bleak but inevitable outcome that awaited him if he didn’t stop using drugs. That was the moment he decided to join a 12-step program and he never looked back.

In 2017 he published Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions, a book where he puts his own spin on the 12 steps and shares what he’s learned during his time in recovery. Today Russell Brand has 17 years free from drugs and alcohol.

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5 Celebrities Who Overcame Heroin Addiction

2. Robert Downey, Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. had a very far and very public fall from grace before he finally settled on the decision to stop using heroin and other drugs. Downey was first introduced to drugs at the age of 6 when his father allowed him to try marijuana. This initiated the progression of over 30 years of use, failed attempts at recovery, tries at treatment, and time behind bars.

He was cast in numerous roles and made a name for himself despite his after-hours drinking and drug use. One of the most pivotal characters he played was a 1987 film adaption of Less than Zero, a novel by Bret Easton Ellis. Downey took on the role of a kid trapped in the throes of extreme heroin addiction.

Years later during an interview with the Guardian, Downey noted that his role in Less than Zero felt like an exaggerated version of himself. As time passed, though, he pointed out that he became an exaggerated version of that character.

In June 1996 he was arrested while carrying both cocaine and heroin then cited for trespassing while under the influence three weeks later. The five years that followed were filled with debauchery and his name plastered in headlines.

Still, even after that, it took a 12-month prison sentence, two additional arrests, and a final court-ordered drug rehab for him to call it quits. Robert Downey Jr. got clean and sober in July of 2003 and has stayed that way since.

3. Steven Tyler

Steven Tyler of Aerosmith was notorious for his incredible heroin addiction, among struggles with other substances. He and Joe Perry, the band’s guitar player, were referred to as the “Toxic Twins” due to their habits for heroin and other assorted pleasantries, especially during the 1970s and 1980s.

Despite the raging drug use of all its members, Aerosmith commanded Billboard charts and TV screens throughout the 1980s. Tyler and his bandmates operated under the idea that their substance use fueled higher quality work and more intense performances.

Though it felt like the perfect solution for years, Tyler hit rock bottom in 1988 and found himself at the center of an intervention. He went to rehab with the encouragement of loved ones and achieved his first stint of sobriety.

He didn’t stay clean and sober, though, and relapsed despite numerous attempts over several years. Most recently he struggled not with heroin but with its legal counterpart: prescription painkillers and sleeping meds. He checked in for another stay in rehab that set him on the path of recovery once again.

As of this year, 71-year-old Tyler now has nine years of continuous clean and sober time. He credits that initial intervention as the catalyst that made it possible for him to remain drug-free, as well as the reason he is still alive today.

Celebrities who share their stories

4. Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton, the iconic singer-songwriter, is no stranger to the depths of heroin addiction either. He’s shared openly about his troubles with drugs and alcohol, along with a severe addiction to heroin in the 1970s.

At the peak of his addiction, Clapton estimated he spent roughly $16,000 a week to fuel his habit. He described his delusional belief that his ability to afford his addiction meant things were under control. The darkest days of his heroin addiction lasted about three years before he was able to get clean.

Stepping back from heroin wasn’t an immediate transition to complete sobriety, though. Clapton shifted from heroin addiction to alcohol and cocaine, a far cry from clean and sober. He continued using the concoction through the 70s until he finally checked into drug and alcohol rehab in 1982.

Clapton shocked the world when he stayed sober through the loss of his four-year-old son, Conor, one of the most difficult things anyone can experience. Rather than drinking again or relapsing on his heroin addiction, Clapton channeled the pain into his music. He wrote Tears in Heaven, a song about his loss that went on to become one of his most famous songs.

5. Carrie Fischer

Carrie Fisher’s story is a tragic result of the impact of drug addiction and the way it follows people throughout their lives. It doesn’t matter how much time a person has or what their ultimate drug of choice was, the temptation of addiction is never far away.

Percodan, a prescription opioid medication, was Fisher’s go-to drug of choice starting in the 1970s. Her use topped out at up to 30 pills a day, a habit she fed by tricking doctors and rifling through whatever drawers and medicine cabinets she could find.

She wound up in the hospital at 28 getting her stomach pumped after an overdose, incapable of dictating to doctors the kinds of drugs she was on. She received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder during her stay in rehab that followed her hospitalization.

During a 2001 interview with Psychology Today, Fisher explained that drugs made her feel more normal. Their effects kept her bipolar disorder symptoms contained and helped her function in her daily life.

Her struggles with mental health and addiction never left her. She was brutally honest about the difficulties she had, difficulties that followed her until the day she passed away on December 27th, 2017. The toxicology report revealed the presence of heroin, alcohol, cocaine, and ecstasy in her system.

Fisher was a princess of Hollywood, known worldwide for her iconic role as Princess Leia in Star Wars. She was also a champion of the mental health movement, open and honest about her difficulties with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. Despite the way she left the world, her honesty helped destigmatize the addiction and mental health struggles of millions.

6. Corey Feldman

Corey Feldman found himself in the public eye from the time he could walk. His acting career started from the young age of three when he first appeared in a McDonald’s commercial. Throughout the first few years of his life, he landed roles in more than 50 television shows and 100 commercials. 

By the time he was a teen, Feldman had multiple roles in high-grossing movies throughout the 80s. He starred in “The ‘Burbs” with Carrie Fisher who noticed he was at the edge of a downward spiral. She reached out and tried to offer help, letting her young co-star know that the way he was headed was far from pleasant.

In a 2016 interview with The Wrap, Feldman explains, “She saw the darkness that was growing in me, but I didn’t understand it at that point. I didn’t know what was coming. Carrie looked into my eyes and saw the pain and recognized it.”

Unfortunately, Feldman needed to learn the lesson on his own. A year later, his battle with heroin addiction began.  He was arrested multiple times for heroin possession in the 1990s before finally attending a long-term addiction treatment program.

He has not only credited Fisher for her initial concern about his substance use but also gave a nod to Joel Schumacher for his attempt to get the young star on the right track in the late 80s. Though he isn’t forthcoming about the extent of his substance use today, Feldman has managed to overcome his heroin addiction.

7. Tatum O’Neal

Tatum O’Neal is another child star renowned for her performances as a young actress. She is the youngest person to win an Oscar, one of the most coveted awards in Hollywood. O’Neal received recognition at the ripe age of 10 for a performance alongside her father in Paper Moon.

Like other child stars, though, O’Neal experienced her own public celebrity drug-fueled downfall. Her childhood was full of many gut-wrenching experiences, from abuse and neglect to eventual abandonment in her mid-teens. By the time she married John McEnroe in 1986, a celebrated tennis star, she was already sunk in the world of substance abuse.

O’Neal eventually became hooked on heroin and lost custody of her children to McEnroe in 1986, She got clean soon after and regained custody, committed to overcoming her demons and getting back on track. Save for a brief relapse in 2008 when she was arrested for purchasing cocaine, O’Neal has remained on her path to wellness ever since.

Celebrities battle heroin addiction too

8. Keith Richards

Keith Richards, frontman in the Rolling Stones, had his own wild experience in the world of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. His contributions to the world of music are legendary but he didn’t make that mark without making waves.

He found his name plastered in headlines for being on the wrong side of the law from the late 1960s. There are countless stories to pull from when looking at his heroin-laced past. He was arrested once in London when the police found numerous illicit substances including heroin, marijuana, and Mandrax tablets. 

Along with all his prior problems, Richards’ most notorious arrest took place in Toronto on February 27th, 1977. The Canadian Mounted Police hauled Richards away from a hotel room where they found myriad substances including 22 grams of heroin and 5 grams of cocaine. Following his trial for heroin possession in October 1978, he was placed on probation and attended treatment for his heroin addiction. 

Thankfully, Richards managed to leave the harsh world of heroin behind following that widespread public debacle. Though he admits to occasional cannabis use and alcohol consumption, Richards has stayed clean from heroin throughout his later years. 

9. Nicole Richie

Nicole Richie was one of the celebrities at the forefront of the “famous for being famous” phenomenon. She moved in with Lionel Richie when her biological parents admitted they couldn’t afford to provide for their young child. Richie was raised in the spotlight alongside her adopted father, especially after his bitter split from his then-wife Brenda Harvey.

She turned to heroin as a way to numb out the pain of the public eye on her parents’ split. Prior to her forays into individual stardom even began, though, Richie was busted for her hard drug use. Her name was smeared across tabloid headlines before her reality show with Paris Hilton, The Simple Life, was even released.

Thankfully, Richie left heroin behind after a severe but short stint. She’s remained clean from heroin following her possession charges in 2003. She knows she can use the experience as a learning tool for her young children as they grow up. “ Everything [about my past] is out there and I have no choice but to be honest with them. And you know what? That is very freeing to me.”

10. Macklemore

Macklemore is well-known for the socially-aware music he writes and performs, he’s also known for his vocal support of those in recovery. His support stems from his own struggles with substance abuse throughout his teenage years and into his 20s. 

Macklemore’s journey into substance abuse started at the age of 13 or 14 when he raided his parent’s liquor cabinet. He described his first time drinking during an interview with MTV: “12 shots…my first time ever drinking alcohol. That’s not people like, ‘yo keep going.’ That’s me, by myself, in the kitchen, like I can’t stop.” 

Though Macklemore didn’t progress to heroin, he battled a severe addiction to painkillers and other prescription opioids. He attended rehab in August 2008 after which he remained sober for three years. Unfortunately, he had a short but significant relapse in 2011 but recommitted to his sobriety soon after. 

Since then, Macklemore has become a champion of the recovery movement. He’s released multiple songs about the struggles of substance abuse including “Starting Over” and “Drug Dealer.” He appeared in one of Barack Obama’s weekly addresses in 2016 to raise awareness about the dangers of addiction, drawing from his own experiences.

Macklemore also headlined Recovery Fest in September 2018, a drug- and alcohol-free festival focused on supporting charities working to fight opioid addiction. He was recognized for his addiction recovery advocacy in 2019 when MusiCares presented him with the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award. Macklemore remains sober and outspoken for the recovery movement to this day.

Escaping the Depths of Heroin Addiction

Despite the difficulties that follow getting clean, heroin addiction doesn’t have to be the end of the road. If you’re stuck deep within the cycle of addiction, there is a way out. Reach out to a qualified addiction treatment program, somewhere like Peace Valley Recovery, where you can find the help and support you need.

Follow the lead of those who overcame their heroin addiction and ask for help today! Call us at (215) 780-1953 to speak with one of our certified and knowledgeable admissions counselors who can connect you with the right rehab program for you.

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