Burt Reynolds' film set injury led to drug battle and '9-hour withdrawal coma'

Darcy Rafter September 6, 2022
Burt Reynolds' film set injury led to drug battle and '9-hour withdrawal coma'
Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

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Almost three decades ago, Burt Reynolds suffered an on-set injury that left him battling health issues for the rest of his life.

Reynolds has long struggled with his health and underwent quintuple heart bypass surgery in 2010 after doctors discovered that he had almost completely-blocked arteries leading to his heart.

Tragically, Reynolds passed away after suffering from a heart attack on September 6, 2018 at age 82. Today marks, four years since his death.

In tribute to the legendary actor, let’s take a look at the accidental injury which changed his life…

On-set injury left Burt Reynolds battling health rumors

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Spike TV

During the filming of 1984’s City Heat with Clint Eastwood, Reynolds was hit in the face by a metal chair and shattered his jaw. As a result of the injury, he developed TMJ (Temporomandibular joint dysfunction). It can cause pain and stiffness around your jaw, ear, and temple.

His career was nearly destroyed as the injury led to false rumors that he was infected with AIDS, writes The Mirror.

He also lost 40 pounds due to being unable to eat solid food. The actor developed a drug dependency as a result of the chronic pain he suffered from TMJ. When the pain got severe, Reynolds was taking up to 50 Halcion sleeping pills a day.

In 1992, Reynolds revealed to TV Guide he was addicted to Halcion for more than four years after he hurt his jaw. The actor bravely opened up about his battle with addiction, hoping his story would help others.

“I broke my jaw and shattered my temporomandibular joint,” he said.

“The pain was worse than a migraine. It is like having an army of people inside your head trying to get out through ears, eyes, your nose. It never stops.”

Burt went into a coma due to drug dependency

Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns

When attempting to put a stop to his heavy reliance on Halcion, he “went cold turkey”. However, as a result, his body went into a withdrawal coma for “eight or nine hours,” leaving him in a Los Angeles hospital.

Reynolds recalled having a “whole out-of-body experience” when he heard doctors tell his wife at the time, Loni Anderson “we’re losing him”. They asked her to say her final goodbyes. In his memoir, But Enough About Me Burt revealed “After about 8 or 9 hours I regained consciousness. I never took another Halcion,” he wrote, of getting clean.

The actor suffered daily for the rest of his life from the accidental injury but he thankfully regained his career. First, he featured in the TV series Evening Shade and then as Jack Horner in the 1997 hit movie Boogie Nights. He was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for best-supporting actor.

Reynold’s life-long battle with drug addiction

However, the actor underwent back surgery years later in May 2009 which led to his prescription pill dependency to return.

In September 2009, Reynolds checked himself into rehab to deal with his addiction problems.

Telling People at the time: “I felt that in spite of the fact that I am supposedly a big tough guy, I couldn’t beat prescription drugs on my own.”

Reynolds completed a month-long stint at the Hanley Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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.