Carrie Fisher didn’t overdose, but headlines make it seem like she did


Carrie Fisher’s autopsy results have been revealed to the public, but the way the media is handling them is, frankly, irresponsible.

When so many people only read the headlines and don’t click through for the story, the headline needs to be accurate and to the point.

When Carrie Fisher died last December, she left a massive hole in the world. Now, her autopsy and toxicology reports are available to the public. She likely died of sleep apnea and other complications. However, the media is choosing to focus on the fact that she had traces of several drugs in her system.

According to autopsy results, there’s inconclusive evidence that the drugs in Fisher’s system contributed to her death. The media, however, has shaped its headlines around the drugs rather than the actual cause of death. These headlines read like Fisher overdosed.

Handling news this way is, frankly, irresponsible. The way media discusses celebrity deaths is often very voyeuristic and gross. Carrie Fisher’s death is certainly no exception to that rule. By framing her death in headlines as being drug-related — which is what media outlets do when they only mention the drugs found in her autopsy — they pin Fisher as “just another junkie.”

Fisher isn’t the first.

We see this pattern every time a celebrity dies and their toxicology report reveals drugs, alcohol or both. We saw it with Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, and even George Michael, who died just two days before Carrie Fisher. Michael died of natural causes and his toxicology report wasn’t revealed. Because he dealt with addiction when he was alive, there’s still an assumption that of course drugs had to be involved. Talking about human beings this way isn’t okay. Nor is it okay to discuss addiction in this manner.

The idea that addiction is something that makes people’s deaths less tragic is really toxic. The shame and stigma surrounding drug addiction is something we, as a society, have to examine and combat every day. Carrie Fisher did that. She did it all the time.

As her family has stated repeatedly, the fact that Fisher did drugs comes as no surprise. She was always open about her drug addiction and mental health struggles. Fisher used her fame and platform to advocate for better mental health care and addiction treatment.

Next: Carrie Fisher’s toxicology report is only important to further her message

Seeing disrespectful comments and jokes about her death, now that the toxicology report has been revealed, is heartbreaking. To belittle someone for something they spoke about openly — when it likely didn’t even contribute to their cause of death! — is disgusting. Carrie Fisher died bathed in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. Her ashes rest in an urn shaped like a Prozac pill. She was a mental health warrior and an advocate for the voiceless. That’s what the headlines should say.