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The Truth Behind Ray Charles’ Heroin Addiction

The Truth Behind Ray Charles’ Heroin Addiction

One of music’s all-time legends, Ray Charles’ heroin addiction went on for years, an addiction that many believe affected his life more than losing his eyesight ever did. Ray Charles faced many challenges, including an impoverished childhood set in the racially-charged south of the 1930s, witnessing the tragic drowning of his younger brother George, and losing his eyesight at the age of seven due to glaucoma. His interest in music also flourished in his childhood, which started with him playing the piano at a local café until it more fully developed into the musical talent many know and love. But rather than his musical gifts, today we’re talking about Ray Charles’ addiction to heroin.

Did Ray Charles Do Heroin?

Ray Charles’ 57 years in the music industry sported some 40 albums. With hits like “What’d I Say,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Ruby,” and “Hit the Road Jack,” Charles earned nicknames like “the Right Reverend” and “The Bishop of Atlanta.” Through all this, the star was struggling with heroin addiction.

In 1948, Ray Charles started using heroin at the age of 18 to cope with the depression that followed his brother’s death. Like other people with a history of substance abuse, Ray Charles’ heroin addiction began with marijuana, commonly referred to as a gateway drug.

As a young artist playing on the piano in various clubs, managers would give Charles marijuana to help him relax before performances. Marijuana eventually crossed over to heroin as Charles eventually became what is known as a working addict or high-functioning addict.

He’d been arrested several times in his adulthood as a result of his drug use. He’d even been busted for drug use around 1956, but the incident was kept hush-hush. Then, in 1965, Charles was arrested in Boston in possession of heroin and was taken to a hospital in Lynwood, California.

Although the star underwent heroin addiction treatment several times, he continuously struggled with his substance use disorder. Heroin is a highly potent opioid that can be administered in many ways, with one of the most common being intravenous injection.

Addiction to heroin usually requires the assistance of medically supervised detox and treatments at a professional residential treatment center. Additionally, like Charles, many people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with symptoms of depression and other forms of mental illness, trauma, or other struggles.

Did Ray Charles Ever Kick His Heroin Addiction

Supposedly, Ray Charles kicked his heroin addiction in the mid-1960s, but the legendary star is alleged to have been linked to alcohol abuse. This is unsurprising considering that cross addiction – switching one addiction for another – is common among recovering addicts.

Portrayals of the star’s life, including the movie “Ray,” point to depression, struggles with poverty, and family tragedy as contributing factors to his long-term addiction. While he struggled to stay sober from all substances (i.e., alcohol), Ray Charles’ heroin addiction did end, which shows that others who are struggling with the same disorder can change their lives. 

Get Help for Heroin Addiction Now

Although Ray Charles was addicted to heroin, he was eventually able to kick his habit. No matter how long treatment takes, the journey is worth it.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, our Texas recovery center is here to help. We offer all kinds of substance-specific treatment programs, including opioid addiction treatment to help people addicted to prescription and illicit drugs, ranging from oxycodone to heroin.

Starting with medical withdrawal treatment to address symptoms of physical dependence to individual and group therapy to address the psychological aspect of drug use, our specialists leave no stone unturned.


For more information about our Texas drug and alcohol treatment, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763.  


Related Reading:

Fentanyl-Laced Heroin: Risks, Side Effects, & Treatment

Is Alcohol Worse Than Heroin?

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.