Pill Popping in Pop Culture

PHOTO Celebs Who Pop Pills

A look at celebrities' public and private bouts with prescription-drug addiction, and their untimely deaths.

Michael Jackson

As the cause of pop icon Michael Jackson's death continues to unfold, early indications point to prescription-drug use as a possible contributor to the cardiac arrest that killed him. Jackson died June 25, 2009, in his Bel Air, Calif., home at age 50. Paramedics found him unconscious on site. He was rushed to UCLA Medical Center, and was pronounced dead soon after. Officials said Jackson received an injection of Demerol an hour before the emergency call.

A senior law enforcement official told ABC News that Jackson was heavily addicted to OxyContin and Demerol. Other reports claim that Jackson took a drug cocktail that included Xanax, Zoloft, Vicodin and Dialuid. Deepak Chopra, who knew Jackson for 20 years, spoke out about Jackson's pill addiction, writing in the Huffington Post, "He was surrounded by enablers, including a shameful plethora of M.D.s in Los Angeles and elsewhere who supplied him with prescription drugs. As many times as he would candidly confess that he had a problem, the conversation always ended with a deflection and denial." Living a life under intense media scrutiny, Jackson often withdrew from the world. His life included abuse as a child, allegations of sexual abuse and a physical transformation that caused some to nickname him "Wacko Jacko." In the years before his death, Jackson faced financial troubles, including losing his famous Neverland Ranch. An autopsy of Jackson's body revealed no indications of foul play, and it will take up to another six weeks to complete a toxicology report and other tests. Jackson is survived by his children, Prince Michael, Paris and Prince Michael II, also known as "Blanket."

Heath Ledger

Actor Heath Ledger died from an accidental drug overdose in January 2008. He was found dead by his masseuse in his New York City apartment. While some sources claimed Ledger was depressed, the actor's father later released a statement declaring his son's death "accidental," which medical examiners later confirmed. A New York City medical examiner said Ledger died "from the abuse of prescription medications," which included six kinds of painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs. Bottles of the generic forms of the anti-anxiety drugs Xanax and Valium, as well as the sleeping drug Ambien, were found in the apartment. Ledger continues to receive honors after his death, including his Oscar win for his role as the Joker in "The Dark Knight."

Elvis Presley

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