• For 24/7 Treatment Help Call

    (800) 526-5053

  • In February 2023, Netflix released a documentary about the Alex Murdaugh murder trials. Since then, the story has dominated American headlines, especially after Murdaugh received a life sentence in March. 

    However, some people don’t realize the role that alcohol and drug addiction played in the case. Before the Murdaugh family murders, Alex Murdaugh battled opioid addiction, while his son Paul struggled with alcohol abuse.

    The Crimes Of Alex Murdaugh

    Alex Murdaugh came from a family of prominent South Carolina lawyers. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all worked as top prosecutors for a five-county district that includes Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Jasper, and Hampton counties. 

    Due to the family’s power over this district, it’s often called “Murdaugh County.”

    Murder Charge

    On June 7th, 2021, Alex called 911 to report that his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and one of his two sons, Paul Murdaugh, had been shot to death at the family’s home and hunting lodge in Colleton County. 

    After more than a year of investigation, Alex was charged with the murders on July 14th, 2022. 

    Financial Crimes

    He also faces over 100 charges of financial crimes that were uncovered during the murder investigation. Prosecutors claim he stole about $8.8 million from his clients. While he pled guilty to many of the financial charges, he pled not guilty to the murders of his wife and son. 

    He also pleaded not guilty to weapons charges associated with the murder.


    On March 2nd, 2023, a jury convicted Alex of the murders, and Judge Clifton Newman sentenced him to life in prison. 

    Ultimately, prosecutors argued that he killed his family to receive sympathy as a grieving husband and father. They claim he hoped this sympathy would help him cover up his numerous financial crimes.

    Alex Murdaugh’s Opioid Addiction

    During the double murder trial, Alex claimed he had been struggling with opioid addiction for 20 years. He said he started taking opioids in the early 2000s after having surgery for a lingering college football injury. He soon developed an addiction, entering rehab multiple times. 

    At one point, he was spending $60,000 a week on opioids. 

    60 Oxy Per Day

    Between January and June 2021, he was taking about 60 oxycodone (OxyContin) pills per day. Indeed, people with opioid addiction often develop such a high tolerance to the drugs that even extremely large amounts won’t kill them. 

    In 2018, the family’s housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, allegedly found bags of pills under Alex’s bed. Alex also said he had a pocket full of opioids when he sat in a law enforcement vehicle talking to police about the case.

    Drug Dealer & Suicide-For-Hire Scheme

    Defense attorney Jim Griffin said Alex bought his opioids from his cousin Curtis “Eddie” Smith, an alleged drug dealer. Both Alex and Smith have been charged with possessing, manufacturing, and distributing opioids. 

    In September 2021, Alex allegedly paid Smith to shoot him so his surviving son Buster could collect a $10 million life insurance payout. When attempting this suicide-for-hire scheme, Smith missed, and the shot only grazed the side of Alex’s head.

    Paul Murdaugh’s Alcohol Abuse

    Alex’s son Paul, who was 22 when he was murdered, allegedly abused alcohol on a regular basis. According to his ex-girlfriend Morgan Doughty, he drank almost every day, often to the point of severe intoxication. She also claimed he became violent toward her while intoxicated. 

    On February 24th, 2019, Paul crashed his family boat while operating it under the influence. The boat contained several teenagers. One of them, Mallory Beach, was killed in the crash.

    BAC Three-Times The Legal Limit

    At the time of the crash, Paul had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.24 percent, three times the legal limit for people of legal drinking age (Paul was 19 and therefore drinking underage). 

    He faced three felony counts of boating under the influence and pleaded not guilty to all charges. His case had not yet gone to trial by the time he died. 

    Culture Of Alcohol Abuse

    During the crash investigation, the court released photos that showed an underage Paul drinking alcohol in the presence of his parents. Paul’s ex-girlfriend also claimed that Alex and Maggie often bought alcohol for Paul and his underage friends. 

    Indeed, people who grow up in environments that encourage alcohol misuse are more likely to develop alcohol problems. 

    Addiction Can Affect Anyone

    Overall, the Murdaugh family’s struggles with substance misuse prove that addiction can affect anyone, no matter their wealth, status, or power.

    If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. 

    Our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs offer medical detox, behavioral therapy, and other evidence-based services to help you or your loved one stay drug-free.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    Questions About Treatment?

    Ark Behavioral Health offers 100% confidential substance abuse assessment and treatment placement tailored to your individual needs. Achieve long-term recovery.

    100% confidential. We respect your privacy.
    Prefer Texting?

    Our friendly support team is here to chat 24/7. Opt out any time.


    Our Facilities

    Premier Drug Rehab & Mental Health Care Facilities In Massachusetts & Ohio

    Bedrock Recovery

    Canton, MA

    • Medical detox
    • Inpatient & Residential Treatment
    • Primary Mental Health Care
    • Movie Theater & Fitness Center

    Learn More

    Northeast Addictions

    Quincy, MA

    • Day treatment program
    • Intensive Outpatient Program
    • Full-Day Group Therapy
    • Easy Access to Public Transit

    Learn More

    Spring Hill Recovery Center

    Ashby, MA

    • Residential Treatment
    • Gender-Specific Residencies
    • Outdoor Recreation
    • Expansive 70-Acre Campus

    Learn More

    Ohio Recovery Center

    Van Wert, OH

    • Medical Detox
    • Residential Treatment
    • Primary Mental Health Care
    • 55-Acre Campus

    Learn More

    For Immediate Treatment Help Call 800-526-5053