Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on September 10, 2020
Robert Downey Jr.
The actor says he used drugs before he was a teenager and spent most of his early career under their influence. He had several high-profile arrests in the late 1990s and early 2000s while misusing alcohol, cocaine, and heroin and spent time in a California prison and a state-run rehab facility. In 2002, he announced that he was recovered. Marvel’s 2008 movie Iron Man revived his stalled career.
She was a 17-year-old actress on family-friendly TV when, she says, she first used cocaine. As her singing career took off, so did her problems with drugs and alcohol. In 2010, she first sought treatment for addiction, along with mental health issues including bipolar and eating disorders. She has addressed her ongoing recovery in interviews, on social media, and in her music.
Affleck, who won Academy Awards for Good Will Hunting and Argo and starred as Batman in the DC Comics franchise, has been open about his issues with alcohol. He went to rehab for the first time in 2001 and has called addiction “a lifelong and difficult struggle.” Following a stay at a treatment center in 2018, Affleck said on social media, “If you have a problem, getting help is a sign of courage, not weakness or failure.”
He’s been nominated for several Academy Awards, but the actor went through some hard times on his way to success. He says years of drug and alcohol misuse threatened to ruin his life, and in 2004 at the age of 29, he made the decision to stop using them. He’s since become one of Hollywood’s most bankable leading men.
She made headlines in 1989 by going to rehab at just 13 and announcing she was an addict. From a famous, and famously troubled, acting family, she was 6 when the movie E.T. launched her career.She says she started drinking when she was 9, and quickly moved on to marijuana and cocaine. She spent her teenage years trying to overcome her notoriety and has since enjoyed success as an actress and producer.
The AIDS crisis inspired the singer to address his addictions. Sir Elton John says when his friend, the young AIDS activist Ryan White, died in 1990, he felt a lot of regret that he had spent the previous decade absorbed in alcohol and cocaine misuse. He sought treatment in 1990 and established the Elton John AIDS Foundation 2 years later.
Jamie Lee Curtis
The actress and children’s book author calls recovery from alcohol and drug addiction the greatest single accomplishment of her life. She says she became addicted to prescription painkillers she was given after a cosmetic procedure. She credits her recovery to the program she entered and the support of others in similar situations. Curtis is an outspoken advocate for drug misuse awareness and changes in opiate policy.
As his career failed to take off in the 1990s, the country singer turned more often to alcohol and drugs. By the time he had his first No. 1 hit, he was in a cycle of recovery and relapse. He credits his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, with getting him into successful treatment shortly after their marriage in 2006. Urban has won several Grammys and was the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 2005.
The star of the Harry Potter franchise is another young actor for whom sudden wealth and fame brought personal problems. He says he drank a lot during filming of the last three Potter films, and finally realized it was something he couldn’t control. He says he quit after the last film wrapped and continues to work on his recovery.
The model and actress says turning 40 inspired her to come forward with her story of addiction and recovery in hopes of helping others. She says she started using drugs as a child, and at the height of her modeling career in the 1990s, she was regularly misusing alcohol and cocaine. Valletta says she recovered when she was 25.
The guitar legend survived a rock culture of drug experimentation. He says he became addicted to heroin in the early 1970s. Clapton recovered, but he continued misusing alcohol and cocaine for years. He finally found success in rehab in 1987. In 1998, he built the Crossroads Centre for alcohol and drug treatment on the Caribbean island of Antigua.
Addiction was a lifelong battle for the Star Wars actress. She often spoke and wrote about her experiences with drug and alcohol use disorder and recovery, as well as her bipolar disorder. Fisher died in 2016 at age 60 after going into cardiac arrest on a trans-Atlantic flight.
As one of the powerful young actors in the “Brat Pack” of the 1980s, Lowe spent much of that decade living a lifestyle of excess. He says his drinking began when he was a teenager and grew more out-of-control the more famous he became. He says fallout from the public release of a videotape of him having sex pushed him to the point where he realized he needed help. He went through treatment in 1990.
He was one of America’s best Friends from 1994 to 2004, but off-screen, he was struggling with alcohol and prescription drug use disorder. The actor says he got addicted to painkillers when he was prescribed them after a personal watercraft accident. The sitcom and movie star has sought treatment, and he says helping others is an important part of his own recovery.
The Sopranos actress says she became an alcoholic as a young woman trying to launch her career. She credits 12-step programs with helping her recover in 1992. She often spoke about the recovery process while playing the opiate-addicted Nurse Jackie from 2009 to 2015.
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People: “Hitting Bottom,” “Robert Downey Jr. Says He Lived Through ‘30 Years of Depravity and Despair’ Before Comeback,” “Demi Lovato Remains Hospitalized After Suffering Complications from Apparent Overdose: Sources,” “Ben Affleck Enters Rehab for Third Time as ‘Visibly Upset’ Jennifer Garner Drives Him to Treatment,” “The Secret Drew Barrymore,” “Keith Urban: ‘I Was Going to Lose It All,’ ” “Carrie Fisher Had Heroin, Cocaine in System When She Died, Report Reveals -- As Daughter Billie Releases Emotional Statement,” “Rob Lowe Celebrates 25 Years of Sobriety, Promises Hope for ‘Those Struggling with Addiction,’ ” “Whole New Man,” “Matthew Perry Says He’s an ‘Award-Winning Alcoholic’ After Being Honored for Helping Fellow Addicts.”
Rolling Stone: “The Tao of Robert Downey, Jr.,” “Drew Barrymore: Wild Thing,” “Elton John Regrets Past Drug Use,” “Keith Urban’s Hard Road.”
Vanity Fair: “Robert Downey Jr. Speaks About His Addictions,” “Cooper Exclusive: Bradley Cooper Speaks About his Struggle with Addiction.”
CNN Entertainment: “Everything we know about Demi Lovato’s apparent overdose.”
Variety: “Demi Lovato Thanks Hospital Staff, Says She Needs to ‘Focus on Sobriety,’ ‘Road to Recovery.’ ”
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: “The Official Academy Awards Database.”
USA Today: “Ben Affleck: ‘I have completed treatment for alcohol addiction.’ ”
CBS News 60 Minutes: “Drew Barrymore’s Extraordinary Life.”
NPR: “Addict to Activist: How Elton John Found His ‘Cure,’ ” “Sex, Drugs and Rock ’N’ Roll: Clapton after ‘Cocaine,’ ” “ ‘I Wanted A New Life,’ Says Actor, Author Rob Lowe,” “Edie Falco On Sobriety, The Sopranos, And Nurse Jackie’s Self-Medication.”
John, E. Love is the Cure: on life, loss and the end of AIDS, Little, Brown & Company, 2012.
Huffington Post: “King of Pain,” “Good Morning Heartache, Good Morning Life,” “Kill the Pain.”
The Hill: “A Q&A with Jamie Lee Curtis.”
Billboard: “Keith Urban Chart History.”
Clapton, E. Clapton: the autobiography,” Broadway Books, 2007.
Crossroads Centre Antigua.
Los Angeles Times: “Carrie Fisher opened up about her demons -- and knew she wouldn’t have a Hollywood ending,” “Edie Falco loves playing the lying, seriously flawed ‘Nurse Jackie.’ ”
GQ: “Rob Lowe’s Tips for Re-Re-Reinventing Yourself,” “Daniel Radcliffe and the exorcism of Harry Potter,” “The GQ Cover Story; Bradley Cooper Is A-List Now, Bro.”
New York: “The Loneliest Soprano.”
The Telegraph: “Daniel Radcliffe on alcoholism, starving himself, Harry Potter -- and the day he fell in love.”
The Hollywood Reporter: “Bradley Cooper: The Serious Evolution of a Leading Man.”
CBS This Morning: “Model Amber Valletta faces down addiction history.”
ABC News: “Actress Amber Valletta: I’ve Been an Addict Since I Was 8 Years Old.”
Variety: “Ben Affleck Checks Out of Rehab: ‘I Am Fighting for Myself and My Family.’ ”