Judy Garland's Daughter Discusses Her Mother's Battle With Addiction

By Victoria Kim 06/28/17

Lorna Luft opened up about addiction's impact on her famous family and her own journey to sobriety in a new interview.

Judy Garland
Photo via YouTube

There was much more to Judy Garland than her melodic singing voice and prolific talents. The classic singer and actress was on a steady diet of prescription meds to keep up with the rigors of being a Hollywood star—amphetamines to work harder, and barbiturates to go to sleep at night, according to the memoir Judy & Liza & Robert & Freddie & David & Sue & Me by Garland’s former manager Stevie Phillips. 

Lorna Luft, Garland’s second daughter from her marriage to producer Sidney Luft, was responsible for regulating her mother’s intake of prescription drugs. Luft was taught to dilute Garland’s prescription pills by her father. 

“It was my responsibility as a kid to regulate her pills,” Luft told author Patti Davis for her 2009 book, The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us. “I remember sitting in hotel rooms, opening capsules, emptying out the drugs, and filling the capsules with sugar. I was taught to never, ever call an ambulance no matter what happened. I was to call my father or someone else—NEVER an ambulance because it would get into the press.”

Garland died in June of 1969 at the age of 47—her death ruled an overdose of barbiturates. In her later years, she suffered from acute hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver—a result of relying on a “toxic cocktail of pills” for over a decade.

“I learned to go through all of her clothes and the drapes—all the places she’d hide pills, whenever she left the house,” Luft wrote in her memoir, Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir, released in 1998. “It was my job to keep the pills locked up and give her a certain number on schedule. I would count them out, so many of each color, and bring them to her with a class of water.”

She continued, “I also had to learn to take care of her when the medications became badly imbalanced, or she overslept and went into withdrawal. When that happened, she’d sometimes pass out, or worse yet, have seizures…I might not have spent much time in school during those years, but I learned a great deal more than most teenagers ever have to know.”

 in a recent interview with Australia's Studio 10, Luft opened up about experiencing her own drug problems as a young woman. She recalled doing cocaine in Studio 54 when someone approached her and said, “Do you maybe not think you are doing the same thing that your mom did?” 

“And I said, ‘Oh, no, no, no…she had a problem. I only do [drugs] at night.’ [I was] stupid.” Luft would end up at the Betty Ford Clinic, where she finally acknowledged that she may have a problem. 

Her experience doling out watered-down pills to her mother would have a lasting impact on the now 64-year-old singer and actress.

“The highs were incredibly high and the lows were…devastating,” Luft recalled. “I learned about the disease of addiction, and that was a part of the whole story. It wasn’t [the whole] story."

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr