The Tragic Death Of Corey Haim

Actor Corey Haim's death on March 10, 2010, came at the end of a long history of drug addiction. Like many child stars, his time spent growing up in the spotlight — with all of the pressures and temptations that are often too difficult for young people to handle — left permanent marks on his mind and body. Best known for roles in '80s movies like "Silver Bullet," "Lucas," and "The Lost Boys," Haim became a standout upcoming star and heartthrob. Per CNN, Roger Ebert praised Haim's performance in 1986's "Lucas," which he filmed at 13. "If he continues to act this well, he will never become a half-forgotten child star, but will continue to grow into an important actor," the critic said.

Sadly, drugs got in the way of that prediction. Haim started drinking beer on the set of "Lucas" and quickly transitioned to pot, cocaine, crack, and more. By the mid-90s he was out of the spotlight. As CNN quotes him from a 2007 "Larry King Live" interview, "I think I have an addiction to pretty much everything. I mean, I have to be very careful with myself as far as that goes, which is why I have a support group around me consistently."    

But ironically, it wasn't even drugs that took Haim's life. His coroner's report states that his official cause of death was "diffuse alveolar damage" (DAD), a type of pneumonia-induced lung swelling. He was in the middle of a clean phase of life, and things were looking up. But right then, tragedy struck. 

Haim's final day

If the overall portrait of Corey Haim's life isn't sad enough, his final day perfectly encapsulates his tragic, horrible fate — as his coroner's report describes. This is especially true considering that he was not only living with his mother Judy at the time, but she was there through the entire ordeal leading up to his death. She's the one who took care of him on his last day. She's the one who thought giving him Tylenol and Robitussin would help. She's the one who called 911 when he collapsed and started shaking. She's the one who performed CPR until medics arrived. And, she's the one who had to explain everything to doctors after her son was gone.  

The investigator narrative section of Haim's coroner's report illustrates Haim's last day in disturbing detail. He'd been sick, but Judy thought he was getting better. He developed a fever and severe headache on March 9, and his breathing became "short and fast." He went to bed at 4:30 p.m., got up at 12:30 a.m., wandered toward the bathroom and kitchen, collapsed, and started to shake — that's when Judy called emergency services. 

When Haim arrived at the hospital at 1:05 a.m. he had no pulse. Doctors defibrillated him, put a tube in his throat, gave him a saline drip, and his pulse returned by 1:38 a.m. When CPR stopped at 1:58 a.m. he started to fade again. By 2:15 a.m. he was officially pronounced dead. 

No drugs contributed to his death

Even taking Corey Haim's troubled history with substance abuse into account, his autopsy report says that drugs were "non-contributory" to his death. There was evidence of THC in his body, and in the investigator's narrative his mother confirmed that he might have had some cannabis two days prior to his death. Haim also had a lot of non-prescription and prescription medicine in his system, but all the prescription medications were legally prescribed. There was also no evidence of prescription drug abuse, and no suicidal intentions on Haim's part. Like we mentioned, he was on the up and up.

That being said, Haim had some existing physical issues that may or may not have contributed to his cause of death, diffuse alveolar damage (DAD). He was a smoker, and possibly had high blood pressure, the investigator's narrative says. He'd been diagnosed with a heart murmur years prior, and as a diagram on his autopsy report illustrates, one of the blood vessels in his heart had narrowed by 50 to 60%. 

There's no mention in any of Haim's death reports about what might have led to or caused the pneumonia that gave rise to his DAD. The Annals of Thoracic Medicine reports a strong connection between DAD and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a disorder involving fluid build-up in the lungs that usually results from injuries. Radiopaedia, though, says that ARDS can also be caused by drug use.

A tragic turn while sober

Despite Corey Haim's troubled history with drugs, his death came as a surprise because he was sober. On CNN photographer Christopher Ameruoso, who was Haim's neighbor,  said that the actor had put on healthy weight in the days leading up to his death. In between the '80s and his death Haim had gotten up to 300 pounds, then dropped to 150, then built up to a solid 200, which his coroner's report says was his weight at the time of death. Ameruoso said Haim could seen walking around his apartment complex "looking for companionship, looking for friends."

One of those friends, Corey Feldman — who was in "The Lost Boys" with Haim — was especially struck by Haim's passing. In a very personal statement, Feldman on CNN said, "My eyes weren't even open all the way when the tears started streaming down my face. I am so sorry for Corey, his mother, Judy, his family, my family, all of our fans, and of course my son, who I will have to find a way to explain this to when he gets home from school."

Haim's death takes on yet another tragic note because of his inspiration, James Dean. The Los Angeles Times quotes him as once saying, "Dean made only three movies, and he's such a legend. People think he's so brilliant. He was so raw. I just want to be known like [Dean] was known. I just want people to think that I'm really, really good."

If you or anyone you know needs help 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).