November 14, 2018

By Karina Kajishima, Spoke News

Whitney Houston, Prince, Lil Peep and Mac Miller — they were once among the most popular names in the music industry.

All of them are now dead due to drug overdoses. All of them died within the past seven years.

Houston overdosed on cocaine. Prince died from a fentanyl overdose. Lil Peep overdosed on fentanyl and alprazolam, more commonly known as Xanax. And Mac Miller passed away this month from an apparent drug overdose.

The most unfortunate part of it all is that society still doesn’t seem to be scared of the consequences of doing drugs, which can be noticed just by turning on the radio.

I’ve been f***ing hoes and poppin’ pillies
Man, I feel just like a rockstar.
— from Rockstar, by Post Malone

I’ma show you how to live life
Take a lot of drugs, don’t think twice
I do this every day and all night
Whole gang full of drug addicts.”
— from Drug Addicts, by Lil Pump

The music industry is brimming with what people call “SoundCloud rappers,” such as Lil Xan, 6ix9ine, Lil Peep, Lil Pump, Lil Uzi Vert, Post Malone and XXXTentacion. They are known for lyrics that glamorize drugs; more specifically, prescription drugs.

As if the lyrics weren’t enough, some of them spoke about drugs in interviews.

“We Would love 2 stop,” said Lil Uzi Vert on his Twitter account to his more than five million followers. “But Do You Really Care Cause We Been On Xanax All F***ing Year.”

“I love to talk about drugs because it is relatable,” said Lil Peep, whose music videos have had hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, during an interview with ZNova. “I am always around different drugs so I sing about it: weed, Xanax, Percocet, lean. I used to do a lot of coke, probably much everything. They’re one of my biggest inspirations.”

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 290 people are killed by prescription drugs every day in the United States. One person dies every 19 minutes and opioid pain relievers are responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, according to the Partnership for Drug-free Kids.

“I think that can be a danger,” said Marshall Chanda, a counsellor at Conestoga College who has a master’s degree in education. “Anytime we have some media or celebrities that would be almost like flaunting drug use, I think that can be a risk. Especially for impressionable young adults.”

As for the many overdose cases, Chanda comments that they, luckily,  function like a red light.

“I hope that when young people look at that sort of situation, they can see and say to themselves ‘Wow, this is a person that had such fame or such potential but they lost their life through drug overdose’,” Chanda said. “Hopefully, it can be seen as almost an warning sign, or like prevention. If you don’t do something or if you don’t ask for help for yourself, there could be risks.”

With the music industry so affected by drugs, most musicians are surrounded by these temptations all the time.

“Being a musician now, if you don’t focus on creating rather than enjoying yourself, it will just become your aesthetic rather than your hobby,” said Ryley Anthony, a 21-year-old musician who plays for DRIVR. “I do rock and ‘prog’ so it’s mostly just alcohol and cocaine I’m surrounded by, but it’s constant pressure all the time. I definitely am part of it, but I never wanna get enveloped by that life of sitting around ALL the time just getting f***ed up.”

In terms of how the artists and their drug related lyrics affect young people, Anthony’s opinion is that it’s not 100 per cent the musician’s responsibility.

“To say they’re personally responsible for what other people do is a stretch, but their songs and personas create this whole mystique and a big ‘F*** it. My life sucks and here’s how I deal with it’ culture,” said Anthony. “A lot of them will talk about ‘Xans’ (Xanax) and opioids being a bad option to deal with your life or to get high, but I think it literally just enables people to feel cooler about doing it.”

Chanda stresses that counselling and asking for help are always good options.

“Whether it’s through health services or the counselling office, both of our services are here for students who are dealing with substance abuse issues themselves,” said Chanda. “Whether it’s alcohol, drugs or whatever the case, we see lots of students who are coming and openly talking about these problems and concerns. We do our best to try and support them and get them the help that they need to try and deal with their addictions. They don’t have to deal with it alone; help is there.”

Some resources to help students:

Conestoga College Counselling: 519-748-5220 ext. 3360. Doon Campus Main Building, room 1A101

ConnexOntario Drug and Alcohol Helpline: 800-565-8603 / DrugAndAlcoholHelpline.ca

And more resources can be found here.

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