Drinking can make the good times even better and help get through the bad times, but as anyone who has ever had a splitting hangover knows, alcohol can be extremely hard on the body. Hangovers pass, but when alcohol is consumed at excessive levels regularly it can take a serious toll.
Our society’s relationship with alcohol is complicated. Alcoholic drinks are a staple at almost all celebrations, events, and festivities, and alcohol is not typically lumped together with recreational drugs and their associated stigmas, despite also having powerful mind- and body-altering effects. However, there are more than 140,000 deaths in the U.S. every year from excessive alcohol use, according to the CDC, and these include celebrities in various fields as well as ordinary folks.
To compile a list of famous people who died from the effects of alcohol, 24/7 Tempo consulted numerous lists published by addiction- or alcoholism-related sites, then verified death dates and diagnoses from obituaries appearing in the New York Times and elsewhere.
We included only figures whose deaths are considered to have been directly caused by, or due to conditions severely exacerbated by, excessive alcohol use. We did not include heavy drinkers or alcoholics for whom alcohol was only one of several contributing factors, nor the many noted personalities, especially (though not exclusively) in the music industry, who died from combinations of alcohol with other drugs, whether recreational or prescribed.
Almost all these celebrities were killed from the effects of using alcohol over long periods of time. Pioneering jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke, for instance died from lobar pneumonia that was exacerbated by an immune system weakened by many years of alcohol use – though he was only 28 when he died. (He lived long enough to evolve into one of the greatest jazz musicians of the 20th century.)
Others succumbed to alcohol-related conditions like cirrhosis of the liver, cardiovascular events, or internal bleeding. The author of “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald, died of an alcohol-induced heart condition. Jazz singer Billie Holiday died from health problems related to alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver, or scarring of the liver.
Click here to read more about 25 famous people who drank themselves to death
Even giving up alcohol can be fatal. Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky died from delirium tremens, an extreme symptom of withdrawal that can cause seizures, hallucinations, and ultimately death.
While alcohol can also lead to poor decision making and lack of motor coordination, only one person on this list died from an alcohol-related accident – 1950s screen idol William Holden was killed while intoxicated when he slipped and smashed his head into the sharp edge of a bedside table, dying from blood loss caused by the wound. (Read about 37 violent celebrity deaths.)
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