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Dark reality of Elvis Presley's drug addiction and fame – so big he couldn't go outside

Darcy Rafter June 21, 2022
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Elvis Presley is rightly celebrated as The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll but he had a sometimes turbulent personal life. The dark reality of Elvis Presley’s drug addiction and isolating height of fame grabbed control of his life.

The impact of Elvis remains significant today but some aspects of his life go untold. Let’s dive into the dark reality of Elvis Presley’s life…

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Dark reality of Elvis Presley’s drug addiction

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

At the peak of Presley’s career in 1957, he was voluntarily drafted to serve in the US Army. He shipped out in March 1958 with an armored division stationed in West Germany. Before he became a rock and roll star he worked as a truck driver.

Elvis returned to the US when his beloved mother, Gladys Presley, passed away. He was grieving deeply and, when he returned to Germany, he partied away his sorrows. After being introduced to drugs while in the army, Presley eventually became addicted to amphetamines and pills.

His drug use was noted by ex-partner Linda Thompson in her 2016 autobiography A Little Thing Called Life: On Loving Elvis Presley, Bruce Jenner, And Songs in Between. In the book, she explains Elvis had been given pills in the army to help keep him awake at night. She said they went on to be a part of his routine.

She recounts Elvis would take sleeping pills every day and recalled an incident when he even took pills from his dentist’s cabinet to fuel his addiction. Linda revealed she saved Elvis’ life multiple times as a result of drug abuse.

She said she even saved him from drowning in a bowl of soup. Linda left the bedroom to do her nighttime routine and returned to find him face down in chicken noodle soup. He survived the incident after Linda cleared Elvis’s throat of food and gave him a shot of Ritalin.

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Original Caption

Presley’s fame got so big he couldn’t go outside

At the height of his fame, Elvis couldn’t leave the house without being swarmed by devoted fans. To avoid being mobbed he would stay inside, becoming a hermit who lived in hotels for months on end. Because he couldn’t set foot out of his front door he became more of a recluse, and abusing prescription drugs became a daily pastime.

Presley was engaged to Ginger Alden prior to his death. In an interview, she revealed he rarely left his bedroom of his Graceland mansion.

Particularly in the months leading up to his death, Alden noted: “When I did visit Graceland, we indeed stayed upstairs quite a bit. I attribute it to the fact there always seemed to be a flurry of activity going on downstairs.”

Elvis | Official Trailer

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Elvis | Official Trailer
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Elvis Presley’s life made into biopic

In August 1977, Elvis Presley died at the age of 42. He died in the middle of the night at his Graceland home while on the toilet. According to the New York Times, the medical examiner attributed Presley’s death to an irregular heartbeat related to hypertension and high blood pressure.

A toxicology report also found a high volume of drugs in Presley’s bloodstream, including codeine, Quaaludes, prescription sedatives, a barbiturate, morphine, and Demerol.

Many are still fascinated by Presley and in awe of his legacy. A new Elvis biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby) has just hit cinemas. The film tells the tale of the Jailhouse Rock singer in his younger years. 

Austin Butler landed the role of Presley and beat the likes of Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver), Miles Teller (Whiplash), Aaron Johnson (Nocturnal Animals) and Harry Styles (Dunkirk) to the part.

If you’ve been affected by this story you can contact American Addiction Centers on (877) 686-7688 or Talk To Frank on 0300 123 6600 in the UK.

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Darcy is an experienced journalist passionate about celebrity culture and entertainment. After gaining a degree in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University she has also become a social media specialist, always keeping informed on the latest trends. With almost five years of experience in media, her expertise is analysing platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. When she's not tracking the latest trending content, she’s watching films and eating lots of chocolate.