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 In Pop Culture

Mac Miller’s tragic overdose-related death in 2018 sparked a conversation about addiction in today’s modern society.

The 26-year-old rapper was found unresponsive in his home on September 7, 2018. He had reportedly struggled with substance abuse for some time. Miller had been open about his struggle previously in interviews. In 2013, in an interview with Billboard, he touched on his reliance on learn, a drink made from prescription-grade cough syrup, “I was not happy and I was on lean very heavy. I was so f—ed up all the time it was bad. My friends couldn’t even look at me the same. I was lost.”

In August of 2018, about a month before his death, Miller was featured in Rolling Stone and once again opened up publicly about his drug use. However, at the time, he didn’t consider himself addicted. He said, “If a bunch of people think I am a huge drug addict, OK. Cool. What can I really do? Go talk to all those people and be like ‘Naw man, it’s really not that simple? Have I done drugs? Yeah. But am I a drug addict? No.”

Not only did Miller publicly address substance abuse, but he also gained a following with lyrics about struggling with depression. Shortly before his death, he gave another interview with Vulture, and addressed his mental health, stating, “I really wouldn’t want just happiness. And I don’t want just sadness either. I don’t want to be depressed. I want to be able to have good days and bad days.”

In May 2016, Miller was arrested in Los Angeles after his Mercedes hit a utility pole shortly after his very public breakup with pop star Ariana Grande. He was charged with two counts of driving under the influence. “I needed that,” he said in a radio interview that summer. “I needed to run into that light pole and literally, like, have the whole thing stop.”

Days after the incident, Grande responded to a fan who blamed her for Miller’s situation, calling the relationship “toxic” and wrote, “I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety.” She continued to receive social media harassment blaming their breakup for his relapse and substance abuse issues.

Mac Miller’s struggle and death can teach society difficult lessons about addiction.

Loved Ones Are Not to Blame for Addiction

Initially, Miller blamed his addiction on the intense media, internet, and public criticism of himself. The fact that his ex-girlfriend experienced a slew of online harassment blaming her for his addiction and passing perpetuates the myth that someone’s addiction or death could have been prevented by a loved one if they had done something different. Many friends and family members tend to place blame on themselves when their loved one is struggling and believe they could have saved them if they behaved differently. In truth, directly the blame towards loved ones rather than compassion is simply unfair.

Addiction is a difficult and complex disease. Although deep-rooted issues can develop from an individual’s personal history, it is no way to place blame. In the end, addiction is a disease that often affects the individual’s loved ones as well.

Recovery is Not Something to be Ashamed of

While alcohol and drug use are often referred to in the lyrics of hip-hop and rap songs, it’s much less heard-of to find lyrics discussing the seriousness of addiction. Of course, celebrities aren’t obligated to be public about their battle with drugs or alcohol, with many choosing to recovery privately. However, treating addiction as taboo only perpetuates the harmful stigma that surrounds it. The negative stigma discourages others to get help for addiction and makes it more difficult for them to seek the resources they need to recover.

If more individuals spoke out about their addiction and treated it like any other serious disease, it could encourage others to do the same. Since Miller’s passing, more stars have come forward with their own tales of addiction and sobriety. Fellow rapper Macklemore, who has been open about his own struggle with addiction, posted a lengthy tribute to Miller, saying “Such a genuine person. Such a brilliant sense of humor. A true artist. Your spirit is what impressed me the most. The energy you brought into any space you were in. Contagious. You reached out to me at times when others didn’t. You were human. And we shared the same disease. A disease that is out to kill us, and when left untreated eventually will.”

Relapse/Overdose is Not a Selfish Act

Implying that an individual is selfish for their overdose death, whether accidental or intentional, is another harmful belief. When news of the overdose broke, some online commentators labeled his death a selfish act. In truth, addiction is not a matter of low willpower. Addiction is a disease that takes a toll on the brain. It is also exacerbated by a society that still has a stigma about addiction, recovery, and mental health resources.

Although his openness about his struggle was not enough to overcome his addiction, Miller’s story has sparked a conversation and contributed to ending the stigma of addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, contact us today.

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