Cocaine, mental illness, trauma: What killed Carrie Fisher?

I’m working on a memoir tentatively titled Four Murders and a Funeral.  In one of the murders, powdered cocaine plays a role. At least that’s what the defendant and his attorney would like us to believe. Whether  the drug was to blame for the murder and whether addiction was involved is part of the story I tell.


Carrie Fisher’s use of cocaine never became much of a criminal justice issue. Some feel celebs get a pass for behavior that lands others of us  in prison. (Do you agree?)

There’s been a tendency over recent decades to medicalize behavior that used to be seen as criminal.  In a way, medical definitions are trumping legal definitions. It’s not always true, tho: witness the back and forth over medical and legal definitions of insanity over the past 40 years.

But courts, politicians, and the general public have preferred of late to have health professional deal with much deviant and criminal behavior. Do you think this is because institutions like the family, the church, and schools have whiffed on their responsibilities?

With the opioid crisis in the news today, it’s worth reflecting on the role of these factors—plus the medical establishment’s overprescription of painkillers—in today’s epidemic..

Please read this recent news article and see if you see “medicalization” at work at the expense of other factors?

Carrie Fisher autopsy reveals she had cocaine, ecstasy and heroin in her system before she died.

The Fishers with Carrie...and Cocaine

The Fishers with Carrie…and Cocaine

‘Carrie Fisher had taken cocaine, heroin and ecstasy shortly before her death, according to an autopsy.

The results indicated that the 60-year-old actor had the three drugs in her system when she became ill on a flight last year. She had a heart attack as she flew from London to Los Angeles in December, and spent several days in intensive care until she died in hospital.

Fisher was best known for her role playing Princess Leia Organa in the original Star Wars trilogy, and later films in the franchise.

The exact cause of her death was unable to be determined in the coroner’s report, which indicated that several factors may have been involved. In addition to the drug use, Fisher suffered from sleep apnea. It was not clear if the drugs had actually contributed to her heart attack and death, or if they were merely coincidental.

Fisher’s drug abuse was well known previously, and she frequently discussed the diseases that challenged her in her work.

“My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life,” daughter Billie Lourd said in a statement provided to People magazine. “She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases.

“She talked about the shame that torments people and their families confronted by these diseases. I know my Mom, she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programmes. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure. Love you Momby,” she wrote.

Fisher died just one day before her mother, fellow actress Debbie Reynolds. In addition to drug abuse, she frequently discussed suffering from bipolar disorder. She had previously admitted to taking cocaine and LSD.

“The only lesson for me, or anybody, is that you have to get help. I’m not embarrassed,” she told People in 2013 when discussing her inability to permanently quit doing drugs.

That willingness to discuss her struggles with drugs and mental health was cheered when she died this past winter. Fans and columnists wrote about her honesty, and encouraged more people to open up to that sort of conversation so that the stigma of the diseases could be lifted, allowing people who are suffering to seek out help and treatment.

The Fishers, Liz  and cocaine

The Fishers, Liz and cocaine

Cocaine, mental illness, or something else the cause?

The comment by Piggles after the first two below** elaborates on Fisher’s  “bipolar disorder.” If true, might this disorder have laid dormant in Fisher until the trauma of her parents very public divorce hit her—as a child or later in therapy? I’ve been around mental wards since age 17, have been to med school, and have studied genes and their expression for decades. I’m not sure whether cocaine, mental illness, or something else caused Fisher’s “addiction” and early death?

What about you? 

Mag with Liz and The Fishers and Cocaine

The Fishers, Liz and cocaine

Was there ever any doubt that she didn’t die from overdosing? No offense but once a junkie always a junkie.

So it was not sleep apnea? Some media still publishing this explanation or was it that the drug addiction caused apnea.

Worth noting. Women with bipolar affective disorder die an average of 9 years earlier than the general population, and heart disease is the highest cause of ‘natural’ deaths within this group. Whether that’s down to medications, or the mere nature of the beast? The heart races when you’re manic, and looking at the wide eyes and flared nostrils in her last photos, I’d guess she was pretty manic. (Takes one to know one.) Many with bipolar use drugs and/or alcohol as a coping strategy….. She did a lot to raise awareness of the illness, and I’m grateful to her for publicising her battles to give us all a greater understanding.

R.I.P. Princess.
To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.


  1. Cocaine is one of the worst things I ever heard of in my life. It just spoils the lives of so many people.

  2. James Brown says:

    Good site. A lot of useful info here. I am sending it to several buddies.

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