Amy Winehouse — How She Fell Victim to Addiction

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Amy Winehouse has become an example. Winehouse’s name is evoked to explain the death of a person who lived fast and burned the candle at both ends. Winehouse joined the ranks of the infamous “27 Club” when she died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27. The “27 Club”, sadly, glamorizes young adults who died in the prime of their lives. 

How Amy Winehouse Fell Victim to Addiction

The opioid crisis has taught your average American that no one is immune from the potential for an overdose fatality. Amy Winehouse became a problematic celebrity when she won awards for her song “Rehab” that includes the lyrics, “They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said, “No, no, no” and “I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine /He’s tried to make me go to rehab, but I won’t go, go, go.” A chart-topping song about your refusal to go to an inpatient or residential treatment facility because you are struggling with drug abuse is a sure sign that your addiction is out of control. 

“Rehab” was the lead single off Winehouse’s 2006 album “Back to Black”. There are multiple versions of the story that led to the production of Winehouse’s rehab. Her management team encouraged her to go and her father has stated publicly that there was a time when he did say that the singer did not seem to require rehab but that later this was clearly not the case. 

In one verse of the song “Rehab”, Winehouse sings, “I don’t got 70 days” seemingly in reference to a middle ground amount of time that someone might spend in a long-term residential facility for drug or alcohol rehab. The average treatment program is 28 days but long-term treatment can go as long as 90 days. Winehouse appears to be aware that her condition may have required a longer stay in rehab and is indicating resistance to the idea of putting her life on hold for treatment. This is a sad but common reason why many everyday individuals who are not celebrities decide against rehab. It’s a false belief that rehab requires a long-term stay.

While not always advisable, those with moderate or severe addictions can opt for an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) instead of inpatient care. While a medical team may not agree with this decision, there are only certain circumstances in which an adult can be held against their will. Generally, mandatory inpatient stays are only short periods of time when a person has given strong indications that they are a danger to themselves or others. 

Later in the song “Rehab”, Winehouse says, “I don’t ever want to drink again […] I’m not gonna spend ten weeks / Have everyone think I’m on the mend.” This can be taken a number of ways. In one respect, it sounds like Winehouse is acknowledging she has a problem with alcohol abuse and that she may qualify for having an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). The subtext indicates that she may be using alcohol as a crutch or coping mechanism because of co-occurring mental health issues such as depression.

Again, Winehouse gives the impression that she would refuse to enter treatment. This time, Winehouse indicates an expected stay of ten weeks. When she states her concern that people might think she’s “on the mend” you have to wonder if she means that actually solving the underlying issues or that she does not want to appear like other celebrities who have spent time in rehab and that has become a lasting part of their image. 

Celebrities Who Went to Rehab

There are many well-known celebrities who have gone to rehab and have gone on to have successful and vibrant careers. Most importantly, many have survived to tell the story of their experience in rehab and ability to maintain sobriety in their recovery. 

Examples of well-known celebrities who have gone to rehab include:

  • Charlie Sheen
  • Robert Downey, Jr.
  • Carrie Fisher 
  • Eminem
  • Jamie Lee Curtis
  • David Duchovny 
  • Drew Barrymore
  • David Bowie 
  • Elton John
  • Billy Joe
  • Ben Affleck
  • Nicole Richie
  • Matthew Perry
  • John Mulaney
  • Demi Lovato
  • Zac Efron
  • Al Uncer, Jr. 
  • Billie Holiday
  • Courtney Love
  • Darryl Strawberry

Celebrities Who Died By Overdose 

Tragically, many beloved celebrities were not able to recover from their addictions and died as a result of an overdose. Celebrity overdoses receive national attention and serve as a reminder that being a celebrity does not make a person invincible. 

Celebrities who have died by overdose include:

  • Prince
    • Accidental fentanyl overdose
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman
    • Overdose due to mixing heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines
  • Michael Jackson
    • Cardiac arrest due to a mixture of several medications including benzos 
  • Heath Ledger 
    • Accidental overdose as a result of combining drugs including oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, diazepam, temazepam, doxylamine 
  • Anna Nicole Smith
    • Accidental overdose involving benzos and other substances 
  • River Phoenix 
    • Heroin and cocaine (“speedball”) overdose 
  • Truman Capote 
    • Alcoholism and substance abuse 
  • John Belushi 
    • Heroin and cocaine (“speedball”) overdose 
  • Elvis Presley 
    • Heart attack as a result of mixing multiple substances 
  • Jarad Anthony Higgins (known professionally as Juice WRLD) 
    • Overdosed on Percocet opiate painkillers when he attempted to hide the drugs from police by taking the drugs in his possession 
  • Mac Miller
    • Accidental overdose by mixing fentanyl, cocaine, and alcohol
  •  Tom Petty
    • Accidental overdose by mixing prescription drugs including fentanyl and oxycodone
  • Scott Weiland (singer from the band Stone Temple Pilots) 
    • Accidental overdose of cocaine, alcohol, and other substances 

Winehouse’s Addiction, Mental Health, and Societal Implications

As a highly public figure who has been written about extensively, there is no question that Amy Winehouse had problems with addiction and struggled with her mental health. A question remains whether or not those in her sphere of influence could have helped prevent her life from spiraling out of control.

According to Winehouse’s family, the singer was greatly saddened by the death of her grandmother who passed away in mid-2006. Her grandmother was believed to be a stabilizing force in the singer’s life. In the summer of 2007, Winehouse was hospitalized after overdosing on a mixture of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine, and alcohol. 

Over the years, Winehouse revealed some of her personal struggles in interviews. She admitted issues with depression, self-harm, and eating disorders. 

Winehouse’s personal physician stated in 2008 that the singer stopped using drugs. She was treated with the sedative Librium in an attempt to offset the negative effects of alcohol withdrawals. She was encouraged to engage in therapy but turned down opportunities to do so. 

In August 2008, Winehouse was charged with assault after an altercation. Legal issues are a common sign that someone is struggling with their mental health and addiction. She was held by police because she appeared to be intoxicated but was released as authorities were unable to prove possession of substances of the drugs she was believed to have been abusing. In 2009, Winehouse was arrested twice more for charges of assault. 

Winehouse began to suffer from lung issues as a result of the prolonged use of crack cocaine. 

When Winehouse died as the result of an overdose at the age of 27, the coroner found that her blood alcohol content was five times the legal limit. In short, Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning due to drinking a fatal quantity of alcohol that can lead to sudden death. 

A takeaway from the decline of Amy Winehouse is that there were many moments when people close to her had an opportunity to step in. A person with Winehouse’s level of fame is in a position where at the end of the day they are able to call the shots. This is part of the double-edged sword that is celebrity. Society puts a great deal of pressure on a person who is just as human as the rest of us to live up to lofty expectations. The tragedy of Winehouse’s story is not only did she die at such as young age but that there appear to have been many chances for intervention. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we can help. Call Oasis Recovery today and get started on the path to recovery.


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