It wasn’t until Monday, August 6, that major newspapers made Marilyn Monroe’s death front-page news. Bernie Taupin and Elton John’s famous tribute to Monroe, “Candle in the Wind,” would later claim that “All the papers had to say/Was that Marilyn was found in the nude.” In fact, the newspapers were at least as interested in another salacious detail: the drugs at the scene.
The New York Times, BBC, LA Times, New York Daily Times and Variety all reported on the empty bottle of Nembutal, a sleeping medication, that was found near Monroe’s body. According to the LA Times, it had been prescribed by Dr. Engelberg just a few days before her death, and had contained 40 to 50 capsules when filled. The New York Times added that the nightstand held 14 other medication bottles. PBS later reported that Monroe was known to regularly mix barbiturates, opiates, amphetamines, and alcohol.
By August 6, LA County Coroner Theodore J. Curphey had told the press that an autopsy had showed that Monroe likely died of a drug overdose, and later described her death as a “probable suicide.” However, medical examiner Dr. Thomas Noguchi, who performed the autopsy, eventually admitted that samples from Monroe’s intestines and stomach were lost before they could be put through toxicology tests. This has fueled conspiracy theories, but a 1982 investigation by the LA District Attorney agreed that Monroe’s death was likely caused by an overdose, whether intentional or accidental.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).