Any substance that alters the senses in a positive way, including alcohol and marijuana, can technically be classified as a “painkiller” since they create a sense of euphoria that masks the “pain” of reality. Bona fide prescription painkillers used to ease the aches and anguish of physical pain or diminish chronic anxiety, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, are highly addictive and easy to score, especially if you’re a celebrity with good connections in the medical arena.
Celebs of all ages and genres have fallen victim to painkiller addiction and many have overcome their dependency. Whether these opiate-based drugs are legitimately prescribed for post-op pain management or used to ease the inherent burdens of show biz pressures, they’ve caused a range of stars a world of hurt.
Jamie Lee Curtis
With a dubious introduction through indie horror movies like Halloween and Prom Night, Curtis bloomed into a movie star in box office hits such as A Fish Called Wanda and True Lies. She reportedly started taking painkillers while recovering from a cosmetic surgery procedure. A recovering alcoholic, Curtis told a Reader’s Digest interviewer that she found pills helpful because they were less messy than alcohol. She recovered from her addiction and keeps abreast of drug addiction and recovery through sitting on the board for the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
Eminem has made headlines since he garnered his first Grammy in 1999 for Best Rap Album, quite a feat for a white guy in that era. His early songs often had lyrics alluding to his drug use, with his hit single “I’m Shady” listing his drug do’s and don’ts, the former including pills, weed and beer, and the latter consisting of speed, cocaine and heroin. Years after his career took off, Eminem’s drugs of choice evolved into hard liquor, Ecstasy and Vicodin. He credits the birth of his daughter Hailie Jade as turning his life around, resulting in him cleaning up his act and overcoming his painkiller addiction.
Jackson‘s addiction eventually led to his death, albeit not directly by his own hand. The renowned King of Pop allegedly got hooked on painkillers when he was recovering from serious burns he suffered during the filming of a Pepsi TV ad in 1984. Jackson reportedly kicked the habit and started using again over and over in the following years, leading to the cancellation of his world tour in 1993. Sordid allegations of child molestation led him to repeatedly seek solace in painkillers in the years that followed and he died from an overdose administered by his personal physician that landed the doc in jail.
Although Love has openly shared stories of her and late husband Kurt Cobain‘s overindulgence in drugs and alcohol, she’s never admitted an addiction to painkillers. She admits taking them but never copped to outright addiction even when she was formally charged with illegal possession of the Oxycontin, which she claims was prescribed by her doctor, and hydrocodone, another popular prescription painkiller. Reports of Love getting clean emerge now and then but her actual drug use remains a mystery.
Kelly and Jack Osbourne
These kids were in rehab at much younger ages than most addicts, largely due to their parents, Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, recognizing the symptoms from their own bouts with drug addiction. Jack was the first to go to rehab for painkiller addiction in 2003, followed by sister Kelly in 2004. Dad Ozzy had a long history of battling drug addiction and suffered a relapse in 2013. Mom Sharon had had her struggles as well but is apparently sober. Both kids have been sober for years, with Jack celebrating 10 years of sobriety in 2013.
Perry‘s character Chandler Bing on the smash hit TV comedy Friends rocketed him to stardom almost overnight. Sadly, as his stardom increased, so did his penchant for partying and imbibing drugs and alcohol. Perry went into rehab in 1997 and beat his addictions. But in 2000, he fell off the wagon after suffering from a bout of pancreatitis after which he became addicted to painkillers. He reportedly beat the demons in 2001 after checking into Promises, a rehab center famous for treating celebrities.
Known early on as BFF of Paris Hilton and daughter of iconic singer Lionel Richie, Nicole is now a seemingly well-adjusted mother. However, in 2006 she was arrested after driving the wrong direction on a California freeway and tests proved she was over-medicated with Vicodin. Richie maintained she got the painkiller prescription to ease menstrual cramps but her symptoms pointed to abuse. She’s now apparently free of substance dependency, a path she attributes to setting the best possible example for her daughter.
Two-time Oscar nominee Winona Ryder was nabbed for shoplifting $5,000 worth of clothes and accessories from Saks Fifth Avenue in 2001. But the eight varieties of painkillers found in her purse raised even more eyebrows, according to a Los Angeles Times news story. Although she reportedly had prescriptions for all but the Oxycodone, she later admitted in a Vogue magazine interview that she may have inadvertently become dependent on painkillers after taking them to ease the discomfort of a broken arm. Ryder said, “And then there was this weird point when you don’t know if you are in pain but you’re taking it. Have you ever taken painkillers? It isn’t a reckless [state], like you’re out of your head. It’s just confusion.” Ryder is allegedly no longer dependent on painkillers.
Known for all kinds of juvenile antics, for years Sheen made the news for romping with prostitutes, breaking hearts and abusing most substances he encountered. He often favored mixing alcohol with painkillers, a combination that landed him in jail in 1996 for a list of crimes, with the most serious being physical abuse of Brittany Ashland, his then-girlfriend. In the past few years, Sheen claims that although he’s still partying, he’s in control and no longer dependent on painkillers, which has resulted in yet another hit TV sitcom, mockingly titled Anger Management.
Anna Nicole Smith
The untimely death of stunningly beautiful Anna Nicole Smith was determined to have been from an overdose of depression and anxiety drugs. But before her dependence on mood-altering medicine, she told CBS news she was addicted to painkillers, pills she turned to after the death of J. Howard Marshall II, her 89-year-old husband. Smith credited her recovery to the Betty Ford rehab center. In a 2002 interview with Larry King, Smith said, “It got me off everything. It was hard. I hated it. I’ll never go back… They treat you terribly.”