Each time the news reports the death of pop star, it’s no surprise when the cause of death is reported as a prescription drug overdose. The world has lost many talented musicians this way, including Michael Jackson (2009), Mike Starr from Alice In Chains (2011), Prince (2016), and Tom Petty (2017).
While some musicians think nothing of using drugs because they’re surrounded by addiction, not everyone does. Singer Julianne Glass experienced a lot of drug addiction in her family that led to the deaths of her father and sister within the same month. She uses her struggles as inspiration to help others by through being transparent with her painful experiences. In Julianne’s case, seeing loved ones die from their addiction was enough to keep her far away from the same fate. Others aren’t so lucky.
Drug addiction often goes unseen
Prescription drug overdoses continue to claim the lives of brilliant musicians, but Michael Jackson and Prince were a significant loss to the industry. Both superstars may have had a secret addiction to prescription painkillers due to their lifestyle choices. Jackson was constantly undergoing plastic surgery, and Prince’s image depended on him performing in platform shoes that would damage anyone’s back and feet. Jackson’s cause of death was determined to be Propofol and benzodiazepine, while Prince died from the highly lethal Fentanyl – the same drug that accidentally took the life of Mac Miller.
The unobvious effects of addiction
In 2017, singer Chris Cornell took his own life by hanging himself in his hotel room after performing a concert with Soundgarden. A toxicology report showed multiple prescription drugs in his system at the time of death, including Ativan, but reports say the drugs didn’t contribute to his death. However, his family believes he may have taken too much Ativan, which affected his decision to hang himself.
It’s not uncommon for people to experience suicidal thoughts while on drugs. In 1994, Kurt Cobain killed himself while high on heroin.
Chris Cornell had been sober for several years at the time of his death and may have had a relapse. Anyone who has battled addiction knows that prescription drugs can affect mental health. So, while the drugs in his system didn’t cause his death, they may have contributed to a suicidal mindset.
Why do talented musicians become addicted to drugs?
It’s easy to become addicted to painkillers when you start taking them for legitimate purposes. They are inherently chemically addictive, and doctors are supposed to warn patients before handing over a prescription. Popping a painkiller once in a while probably won’t turn into addiction. However, a prescription can easily turn into an addiction when a person relies on pain relief for an extended period of time (like Michael Jackson).
So, it’s not a mystery how addiction happens. Perhaps the more important question is why do so many talented musicians die from an overdose before getting help? And why do some get sober, only to fall back into the lifestyle several years later?
Musicians are under constant and intense pressure
Although it appears to be the ultimate lifestyle of fame and fortune, being a popular musician is anything but glamorous. Musicians are under constant pressure from producers and labels to maintain an image to sell records and concert tickets. They don’t really get to have their own life. They’re controlled by labels and told what they can do, and some can’t handle the stress and turn to drugs. For some, escaping reality is appealing, while others just want to “party like a rockstar.”
There’s a difference between musicians who die from drugs like cocaine and heroin, and those who die from a prescription drug overdose. It’s mostly older musicians who die from an accidental prescription drug overdose. Musicians who die from cocaine and heroin overdoses are usually young; in their 20’s and 30’s. For instance, legends Frankie Lymon, Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious, and Janis Joplin all died from a heroin overdose in their 20’s. Perhaps it’s because the younger musicians find the party lifestyle appealing. Older musicians have “been there, done that.”
Seeking treatment is a difficult decision
Perhaps the reason musicians don’t seek treatment for prescription drug addiction is a combination of not wanting to disappoint their family, and feeling ashamed of their addiction. It can’t be easy to let fans down by canceling all your concerts for at least a year to go into a recovery program.
It seems like the only hope for musicians to get treatment is for friends and family to pay attention to the signs, and convincing an addicted musician that getting help is worth potentially sacrificing their career.