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  • Numerous professional and student-athletes have died due to drug use. For example, during the opioid crisis, multiple young athletes faced opioid overdose deaths after receiving opioid prescriptions for injury-related pain management. 

    Many athletes, including professional wrestlers, have also died from alcohol poisoning, driving while intoxicated, drug-related heart failure, and more. 

    Football Player Deaths Involving Drugs Or Alcohol

    Avery Atkins (Died: 2007)

    After becoming a star high school athlete, Avery Atkins joined the Florida Gators football program in 2005. In 2007, he fatally overdosed on MDMA (also called ecstasy or molly) at age 20.

    Bryce Beekman (Died: 2019)

    In 2019, 22-year-old college football player Bryce Beekman overdosed on the antihistamine promethazine and the prescription opioid painkiller (or analgesic) fentanyl

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl has contributed to numerous drug overdose deaths throughout the opioid epidemic.

    David Croudip (Died: 1988)

    In 1988, NFL defensive back David Croudip accidentally overdosed on cocaine. He was 30.

    Jesse Mahelona (Died: 2009)

    In 2009, Jesse Mahelona, the NFL defensive tackle, died in a drunk driving accident. He was 26.

    Don Rogers (Died: 1986)

    In 1986, NFL safety Don Rogers suddenly died at age 23. His cause of death was listed as a cocaine-induced heart attack.

    Tyler Sash (Died: 2015)

    In 2015, NFL safety Tyler Sash accidentally overdosed on hydrocodone and methadone, which are both opioid medications. He was 27.

    Mark Tuinei (Died: 1999)

    In 1999, NFL offensive tackle Mark Tuinei died of an MDMA and heroin overdose. He was 39.

    Basketball Player Deaths Involving Drugs Or Alcohol

    Len Bias (Died: 1986)

    A star basketball player for the University of Maryland, Len Bias died of an accidental cocaine overdose in 1986. He was 22.

    Eddie Griffin (Died: 2007)

    In 2007, National Basketball Association (NBA) player Eddie Griffin died in a drunk driving accident at age 25. He had struggled with alcohol abuse for years.

    Baseball Player Deaths Involving Drugs Or Alcohol

    Don Bessent (Died: 1990)

    In 1990, Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher Don Bessent died of alcohol poisoning. He was 59.

    Ken Caminti (Died: 2004)

    After struggling with alcohol, cocaine, and heroin use for years, MLB star Ken Caminti fatally overdosed on a speedball (a mix of cocaine and heroin) in 2004. He was 41.

    Ed Crane (Died: 1896)

    In 1896, MLB pitcher and outfielder Ed Crane overdosed on alcohol and a sedative drug called chloral hydrate. He was 34.

    Tim Crews (Died: 1993)

    In 1993, MLB pitcher Tim Crews crashed his boat while drunk, killing himself and his teammate Steve Olin. He was 31. 

    Mike Darr (Died: 2002)

    MLB outfielder Mike Darr died in an alcohol-related car crash in 2002. He was 25. According to law enforcement, his blood alcohol content was well above the legal limit

    Ed Delahanty (Died: 1903)

    In 1903, MLB left fielder Ed Delahanty drowned in Niagara Falls after drinking five whiskies. He was 35. 

    José Fernández (Died: 2016)

    In 2016, MLB pitcher José Fernández died in a boating accident after ingesting alcohol and cocaine. He was 24.

    Tommy Hanson (Died: 2015)

    In 2015, MLB pitcher Tommy Hanson died of an accidental overdose involving alcohol and cocaine. He was 29.

    Kazuo Kageyama (Died: 1965)

    In 1965, Japanese baseball player Kazuo Kageyama fatally overdosed on a sleeping pill. He was 38.

    Jim Magnuson (Died: 1991)

    In 1991, MLB pitcher Jim Magnuson died of alcohol poisoning. He was 44.

    Jim McElroy (Died: 1889)

    In 1889, baseball player Jim McElroy intentionally overdosed on morphine, which is a natural opioid pain medication (also called an opiate). He was 26.

    John Odom (Died: 2008)

    Minor league baseball pitcher John Odom struggled with the use of opioids and other drugs following a difficult adolescence and negative media attention. 

    In 2008, at age 26, he accidentally overdosed on alcohol, heroin, methamphetamine, and a stimulant drug called benzylpiperazine.

    Darrell Porter (Died: 2002)

    MLB catcher Darrell Porter struggled with substance abuse throughout his career. In 2002, he died of a cocaine overdose at age 50.

    Tyler Skaggs (Died: 2019)

    MLB pitcher Tyler Skaggs suffered a fatal overdose in 2019 at age 27. He had ingested alcohol along with the opioid pain relievers fentanyl and oxycodone. He had struggled with opioid abuse for much of his career.

    Pro Wrestler Deaths Involving Drugs Or Alcohol

    ​​Trent Acid (Died: 2010)

    Trent Acid, born Michael Verdi, was a professional wrestler who died from a drug overdose at the age of 29 in 2010. Acid struggled with heroin abuse, but the toxicology report was sealed and the drugs involved remain unknown.

    Herb Abrams (Died: 1996)

    Herb Abrams, a wrestling promoter and founder of UWF, died of a heart attack caused by a cocaine overdose. Abrams abused cocaine for years before his death and, according to some sources, was paranoid and violent the night of his fatal heart attack.

    Brian Adams (Died: 2007)

    Professional wrestler Brian “Crush” Adams died from a polydrug overdose involving alprazolam, carisoprodol, and buprenorphine. He was 43 years old.

    Art Barr (Died: 1994)

    Art Barr, a professional wrestler in the U.S. and Mexico, died in 1994 at the age of 28 from a drug-induced heart attack.

    Stephan Bonnar (Died: 2022)

    Stephan Bonnar, a mixed martial artist, died of an accidental fentanyl overdose on December 22nd, 2022.

    Matt Borne (Died: 2013)

    Matt Osborne, otherwise known by his ring name Matt Borne, was the first professional wrestler to portray Doink the Clown. Borne died from an accidental morphine and hydrocodone overdose in 2013 at age 55.

    Lance Cade (Died: 2010)

    Lance Cade was a well-known WWE wrestler born Lance Kurtis McNaught. He died from an accidental drug overdose in 2010 at the age of 29.

    Chyna (Died: 2016)

    Chyna was a professional wrestler and bodybuilder who died of an accidental drug overdose involving alcohol, diazepam, nordazepam, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and temazepam in 2016. She was 46.

    ​​Bobby Duncum Jr. (Died: 2000)

    Bobby Duncum Jr., a professional wrestler and football player, died from an accidental fentanyl patch overdose at the age of 24 in 2000.

    Anthony Durante (Died: 2003)

    Professional wrestler Anthony Durante, known by his ring name Pitbull #2, died from a fentanyl overdose at the age of 36 in 2003.

    Reid Flair (Died: 2013)

    Reid Flair was a professional wrestler and son of Ric Flair, one of the greatest professional wrestlers ever. Reid died from a drug-induced heart attack at the age of 25 in 2013, and his autopsy found heroin, clonazepam, and alprazolam contributed to his death.

    Curt Hennig (Died: 2003)

    Curt Hennig, a professional wrestler known who raised the bar for technical wrestling in the WWE, died from cocaine intoxication in 2003 at the age of 44.

    Crash Holly

    Crash Holly was a professional wrestler well-known in the WWE and WWF. He died at the age of 32 from an intentional overdose on carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant.

    Sherri Martel (Died: 2007)

    Sherri Martel was a professional wrestler and manager who died from an oxycodone overdose in 2007. She was 49.

    Axl Rotten (Died: 2016)

    Axl Rotten, a professional wrestler born Brian Knighton, died from a heroin overdose in 2016 at the age of 44.

    Buzz Sawyer (Died: 1992)

    Buzz Sawyer, born Bruce Alan Woyan, was a professional wrestler who died in 1992 at the age of 32. His death resulted from heart failure brought on by a drug overdose.

    Louie Spicolli (Died: 1988)

    Professional wrestler Louie Spicolli, who also performed as Madonna’s Boyfriend and Rad Radford, died in 1988 at the age of 27 from asphyxiation—he overdosed on wine and the muscle relaxer Soma (carisoprodol).

    Chase Tatum (Died: 2008)

    Chase Tatum was a 34-year-old professional wrestler who died from an accidental drug overdose in 2008.

    Test (Died: 2009)

    Test, born Andrew James Robert Patrick Martin, was a Canadian wrestler who died at age 33, in 2009, from an accidental oxycodone overdose.

    Umaga (Died: 2009)

    Umaga was a professional wrestler who died in 2009 (age 36) from a heart attack induced by multiple substances, including hydrocodone, carisoprodol, and diazepam.

    Luna Vachon (Died: 2010)

    Luna Vachon was a WWE Hall of Fame wrestler who had a competitive career for over 20 years. She died, at the age of 48, from an oxycodone and benzodiazepine overdose in 2010.

    Mike Von Erich (Died: 1987)

    American wrestler Mike Von Erich came from a family with deep ties to professional wrestling. Leaving a suicide note, he died of an intentional alcohol and sleeping pill overdose in 1987 at the age of 23.

    Hockey Player Deaths Involving Drugs Or Alcohol

    Derek Boogaard  (Died: 2011)

    In 2011, star hockey player Derek Boogard overdosed on alcohol and the opioid medication oxycodone (also known as OxyContin or Percocet). He was 28 and had long struggled with opioid use disorder (also called opioid addiction).

    Tim Horton (Died: 1974)

    In 1974, star hockey player Tim Horton died in a car crash after consuming alcohol and dexamyl (a discontinued prescription drug with barbiturate and stimulant effects). He was 44.

    Marek Svatoš (Died: 2016)

    In 2016, hockey player Marek Svatoš overdosed on codeine, morphine, and alprazolam (also known as Xanax) at age 34. He had a diagnosis of depression and a history of opioid misuse

    Rugby Player Deaths Involving Drugs Or Alcohol

    Steve Rogers (Died: 2006)

    In 2006, Australian rugby player Steve Rogers accidentally overdosed on alcohol and antidepressants. He was 51.

    Olympian Deaths Involving Drugs Or Alcohol

    Jarred Rome (Died: 2019)

    In 2019, two-time Olympic discus thrower Jarred Rome died of an accidental fentanyl overdose. He was 42.

    If you or someone you love struggles with drug abuse, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. 

    Our board-certified healthcare providers offer medical detox, mental health counseling, and other evidence-based treatments to help people recover from substance use disorders.

    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
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on November 29, 2022
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