The Crippling Addiction That Almost Killed Jean-Claude Van Damme

Jean-Claude Van Damme is one of the foremost action heroes of the 1980s and early 1990s. From Bloodsport to Universal Soldier, the Muscles from Brussels has spin-kicked and splits-punched his way through a countless array of enemies. That is, if said enemies are lucky. After all, Van Damme is notorious for deploying the occasional, ruthless crotch punch, should the mood take him (which it will). 

The man they call JCVD isn't one of those action stars who are actually terrible fighters, either. He's a real-life black belt in karate, and an equally real, accomplished former competitor in semi-contact karate and full-contact kickboxing. What's more, he has studied ballet to acquire his famous flexibility, and is happy to tell you that it's one of the most grueling things he's ever done. The combination of all this hardcoreness has made Van Damme so dangerous that when he once challenged the vastly larger Steven Seagal to a fight, the aikido star fled the scene ... and Van Damme tracked him down, and challenged him again. All of this was observed by none other than the uber-action hero Sylvester Stallone, who has reportedly said in no uncertain terms that Van Damme would have emerged victorious, should the fight actually have taken place. 

However, every hero has his weak spot, and in Van Damme's case, it was his tragic penchant for a certain substance. Here's the true story about the crippling addiction that almost killed Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Van Damme's career almost went up his nose

As Alex Godfrey of the Guardian tells us, Jean-Claude Van Damme's biggest enemies have been his own self and a heaping mound of cocaine. Reportedly, the actor spent years shoveling up to ten grams of white powder up his nose on a daily basis, and with addiction and stardom came the kind of grandiose tendencies that very nearly ended his career. He received a very decent $7 million from his role in 1994's underwhelming video game adaptation, Street Fighter. The hugely successful Timecop made him an even bigger star, but unfortunately, this went to his head, and he started demanding Jim Carrey money from his roles. This went roughly as well as you'd expect.

Cocaine and arrogance took their toll, and by the late 1990s, Van Damme was into his fifth marriage, and more or less blacklisted from anything above direct-to-DVD fare. However, his cocaine addiction almost took more than just his career. 

The day cocaine nearly killed Van Damme

In a 1998 interview with EW, Van Damme described the day cocaine almost ended his life in a Hong Kong hotel room. "I was in the room," the Muscles from Brussels reminisced. "I wrote on the back of a script my problems, my complexes, my fears. I wrote with that coke, like, 80 pages. I wrote and I wrote, and I almost passed out. Then I was in the corner of the room. I was dying. I saw my body on the floor. I felt cold, I felt hot, I felt scared. I didn't feel like a man or a woman. And then I just came back into that envelope, that body, with that soul, and I said, 'I'm not ready. I know what's death after life."' Oof.

Fortunately, the frightening experience seems to have been able to knock Van Damme back in the land of the living. By the late 1990s, he was a happily married father and an owner of several dogs. Sure, he still had years and years of DVD fodder ahead of him, but eventually, he reclaimed some of his former glory with movies like 2008's excellent JCVD and 2012's The Expendables 2, where he got to have a great fight against Sylvester Stallone.