Why this spate of Young Hollywood people dying? Is being in proximity to fame hazardous to your health?
—Cara, Michigan via the Answer B!tch inbox
Causes of death in each case are far from conclusive, though reports indicate that a pharmacy of prescription drugs was found by Murphy's bed, including the Vicodin cousins hydrocodone and Vicoprofen and that Johnson had also battled addictions to drugs that may have included OxyContin. (She also suffered from diabetes.)
Let's also not forget that DJ AM overdosed on a combination of illegal and prescription drugs, and that a medical examiner ruled that Heath Ledger's death was due to an accidental abuse of prescription drugs.
But is Hollywood any worse than the rest of the country when it comes to hard living?
I have the answer...
And that is, apparently yes.
Well, not statistically, mind you, so let's look at that first.
When it comes to prescription drug addiction—which seems to be at the center of all the speculation—"it's equally bad around the country," says addiction specialist Dr. Clare Kavin of the Waismann Method, which has treated many a celebrity.
"It's rampant everywhere, because these are legal, prescription drugs, but you may hear about it more because these people are in the public eye."
Beyond that, however, there are factors unique to show business that definitely aren't beneficial to one's health, even that of a very young, otherwise hale person.
For one, there's the toadyism.
Most other parts of the country don't have as their leading industry one that involves so many "yes" people—minions so eager to keep their paychecks that they gladly enable their bosses, whether the activity endangers the star or not.
"There are so many layers of people between the celebrity and the help they may need," says Sherry Gaba, a psychotherapist who works behind and in front of the cameras on the Celebrity Rehab series. "You have people working for the stars who may or may not be supporting them."
(That isn't to say there aren't a few hopeless addicts in the janitorial supply business or hosiery trade, but, you know.)
Famous addicts also may hesitate to seek out help for fear of being labeled by international media as the next Lindsay Lohan—again, not exactly a factor among the civilian population, whose problems usually don't travel beyond their own towns.
It's too soon to say whether drugs played a key role in the deaths of Murphy or Johnson, but given how pervasive they are in Hollywood and how many times drugs have played a role in a famous person's death, I, sadly, doubt this will be the last time we hear about this kind of a tragedy.
For more gone-to-soon stories, see our Shocking Pop Star Deaths gallery.