Many of you know her as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. But there was much more trouble behind Judy Garland than just a pair of ruby slippers. At the young and innocent age of 17 she starred in her 7th film, “The Wizard of Oz”. The same year she had her hand and shoe prints forever embedded in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The reality of her envied life was not so pretty however. The pressures were harsh and so was the work load. Her contract stated that if her physical appearances were to change, her voice became impaired or she couldn’t work satisfactorily she would be suspended without pay.
Drugs were naturally used to help her maintain her life and schedule. She did not start out abusing drugs or using them for pleasure, Benzedrine and Phenobarbital were taken to control her appetite and weight. She was worked so hard that she became too exhilarated to sleep. Sleeping pills helped her get as much sleep as possible for the next day of hard work. In order to wake up able to function in the morning she had to take a wake-up pill, or Benzedrine. These psychotropic drugs were newly discovered and considered medicine, such as amphetamines. The consequences that we now know of these drugs were not known back then. They did not know how addictive these new drugs were or of the severe physical and mental side effects. They took their toll on Judy Garland and she became very addicted and slowly completely dependent on the drugs.
She decided that she needed help when the people around her began noticing the differences. She saw a psychiatrist and he told her that she had problems and that they would become serious; that she needed help and that she should begin seeking it. And even though she saw a psychiatrist and many therapeutic promises were made she kept getting worse. The drugs began taking over her life and her behavior. It was also slowly becoming apparent to the public.
She was taking deadly combinations of drugs, not knowing what it could do or what they could do together. She was taking “stimulants that can cause psychotic states and insomnia, and barbiturates causing headaches, fatigue and behavior changes”, plus combinations that could lead to hallucinations, shortness of breath and suicidal tendencies. All the while she was going through her therapy to get off these very drugs. Medical evidence showed that they were destroying her physically as well. She was called a human with a literal chemical atom bomb going off inside her. When Garland tried to go without her drugs she experienced severe physical pain and felt so bad she had to take her pills again. As Gerald Frank wrote in Judy, “her cure became her illness which became her cure which became her illness.”
She sustained many stays in psychiatric hospitals with her psychiatrist’s orders and at the age of 26 she went through the severe treatment of electroshock. Sadly all her attempts of psychiatric help failed her. She even tried hypnosis to “calm her nerves and help her lose weight.”
Even through her depression and sorrows from her addictions, which were of no fault of her own besides choosing the path of Entertainment at a time when consequences were unknown, she worked on. She was an amazing performer as she had been since she was old enough to carry a tune, and her illness didn’t affect that. And in her mid to late 30’s her health problems caused by the drugs became critical. She was hospitalized because her liver and spleen were largely swollen and her body had become poisoned from fluids. The result of her lifetime of drugs was tearing her apart physically and mentally.
After the hospitalization that had followed many she was put on powerful psychiatric drugs once again. Valium, Ritalin, Thorazain were some of the drugs she was taking and by 1968 she was taking as much as 40 Ritalin pills every day. The effects of these drugs cause hallucinations, disturbed thinking, confusions, depression, anxiety, rage and sleep disturbances. Her “cocktails” of drugs was frighteningly deadly.
Too deadly in fact. Judy Garland died of a drug overdose on June 15, 1969 in her London hotel, 6 days after her last performance. Had Judy Garland known the effects of the drugs she was taking before she took them, had she not been so pushed, wanted and worked, maybe her fate would have been different. It shows the importance of knowing the side effects of drugs and what they can do to you without your even knowing it. No matter how innocent you think it is, drugs of any kind can be seriously deadly if you are not aware of its effects in time.