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Famous People Who Died Of Barbiturate Overdose

Updated May 16, 2018 64.9k views9 items

Tragically, there have been many famous people who died of barbiturate overdose. Celebrities who overdosed on barbiturates include Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and Aimee Semple McPherson. What are barbiturates, and what is barbiturate overdose? Barbiturates are depressant drugs that have strong sedative effects on the nervous system, but aren't as commonly prescribed in present day as in the '60s and '70s, when death by barbiturates was far more common.

When people ask, "How did Judy Garland die," the answer is Seconal. Other types include Phenobarbital and Amytal. A fatal overdose on barbiturates is typified by difficulty breathing. Barbiturate overdose may be intentional or accidental. In Garland's case, it was ruled accidental. 

This list includes notable barbiturate overdose victims’ hometown and biographical info, when available. Everyone on this list has overdosed on barbiturates as a cause of death somewhere in their public records, even if it was just one contributing factor in their autopsy.

  • Photo: Antonio Marín Segovia / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    Notorious sex symbol Marilyn Monroe's death is a very mysterious one. She overdosed on barbiturates on August 5, 1962. It was ruled a suicide, but some believe that it may have been an accident or even foul play. Some conspiracy theorists believe that her death was to keep an affair with president John F. Kennedy silent.

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    • Judy Garland was an actress and singer who was most famous for her role as Dorothy in the film "The Wizard of Oz." During her career she suffered from mental illness and alcoholism and was in and out of treatment multiple times. On June 22, 1969, at the age of 47, her husband Mickey Deans found her dead from sleeping pill overdose. Deans told authorities that he didn't believe it was an intentional suicide, and autopsy showed that the pills were taken at different intervals throughout the night. Her funeral was attended by over 20,000 adoring fans.

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      • Edie Sedgwick was a 1960's "it girl" and model who came to prominence when she appeared in several short films by the artist Andy Warhol. She struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, but managed to get clean when she married her husband Michael Post whom she met in a psychiatric ward. Her sobriety was interrupted when she was given pain meds for an injury, and she overdosed on barbiturates at home on November 15, 1971.

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          Aimee Semple McPherson was a famous evangelical preacher and "faith healer" who was covered extensively in the media and was one of the most photographed figures of her time. On September 26, 1944, while planning one of her popular sermons, McPherson called a doctor complaining about feeling sick from her sleeping medication. She was found dead that night from barbituate overdose mixed with kidney failure.