BY MELANIE RAIBLE
It has been a little over three weeks since rapper and producer Mac Miller was found dead due to an accidental drug overdose. Miller’s tragic death has provoked a conversation surrounding drugs, and has shined more light on the drug epidemic the music industry is continuing to struggle against.
Drug and alcohol abuse has always been a prevalent issue in the music industry; however, recently, the statistics have been increasing dramatically. This year alone, there has already been over 20 deaths linked to drug and alcohol abuse in the music industry.
Among these are the deaths of Lil Peep, Avicii, Tom Petty, Dolores O’Riordan and Mac Miller.
Like many artists, Miller used his songs as a way to connect to his fans, and was known for publicly speaking out about his struggles with addiction. The young rapper, only 26 when he passed, was an inspiration to millions.
Camaren Rogers, a sophomore at Salisbury University, was devastated when she found out Miller had passed.
“I was absolutely heartbroken when I found out,” Rogers said. “I mean, we all grew up listening to him, and finding out he died really broke my heart.”
Although the drug problem seems to have gotten worse only recently, it actually has been steadily increasing throughout music history. Unfortunately, there has been a drug problem circulating through the music industry for perhaps as long as it’s been around.
Over the past 50 years, the music industry has lost many artists due to drug-related incidents, including: Judy Garland (1922-1969), Janis Joplin (1943-1970), Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970), Elvis Presley (1935-1977), Michael Jackson (1958-2009), Amy Winehouse (1983-2011), Whitney Houston (1963-2012) and Prince (1958-2016).
There is an ugly belief surrounding drug and substance abuse that portrays an addict as selfish, when in reality, the person has simply lost control. Instead of looking at addiction as a selfish act, people should view it as a disease — a disease that entirely takes control over a person, forcing them to put the addiction first and cater to its every demand.
Many artists are often sober for months and even years when an unexpected relapse sends them back into a downward spiral. It’s been nearly two months since Demi Lovato suffered from a drug overdose that nearly took her life. Since the overdose, Lovato has been in a rehab center located in Chicago in hopes of recovery.
In an Instagram post, following her overdose in July, Lovato shared the following: “I look forward to the day where I can say I came out on the other side. I will keep fighting.”
With an addiction problem, a person can either let it win or choose to fight. The word “recovery” is a fallacy when talking about addiction. A person fighting an addiction never truly recovers; they just learn how to fight against it. So instead of “recovering,” Lovato is choosing to fight against her problem and learn to cope with this disease.
There are various reasons why a person may turn to drugs. It may be due to an underlying trauma or simply for recreational use. In many cases, artists in the music industry become famous because they have a sad story to tell and they find closure by telling their stories through their music.
However, if you give an already-depressed person tons of money, fame and pressure, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Miller once said in an interview with Larry King, “It’s funny, because you talk to people, and they say, ‘What do you have to be depressed about? You have money’ … Fame is tricky because you read what’s said about you, and you know what you know to be true, and the lines start to blur.”
This just goes to show that money and fame truly aren’t everything. A person could have all the money in the world, and still choose to throw it all away because it isn’t truly making them happy. Putting pressure on struggling artists is only adding to fuel to the fire. Insulting headlines that paint an artist as a “druggie” aren’t helping that artist, but only adding more pressure on them.
Musicians, like all people, are human too. They get sad, they get lonely and they find themselves in tempting situations. It’s too often seen in headlines when an artist’s name is followed by “drug overdose.”
In an ideal world, people would stop supporting songs that idolize pharmaceutical and dangerous drug use, but that’s asking a lot. Nowadays, almost every modern rap song mentions the use of Xanax and other pharmaceuticals.
The best thing everyone can do is to educate themselves about the dangers of these drugs. But overall, have empathy. Addiction in itself is a battle, and the more support you give a person trying to fight it, the bigger the chance they have of overcoming it.
Image from Rolling Stone