Flea Talks Opioid Addiction & The Prescription Drug Crisis, Chris Cornell’s Widow Responds

first_imgAs part of an extensive new series published by TIME on our nation’s devastating opioid crisis, bassist Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers contributed a personal editorial, “The Temptation of Drugs Is a Bitch,” in which he opens up about his own past struggles with opiates and speaks candidly about his feelings on doctors’ complicity in the spread of this addiction epidemic.As Flea begins:I’ve been around substance abuse since the day I was born. All the adults in my life regularly numbed themselves to ease their troubles, and alcohol or drugs were everywhere, always. I started smoking weed when I was eleven and then proceeded to snort, shoot, pop, smoke, drop and dragon chase my way through my teens and twenties.I saw three of my dearest friends die from drugs before they turned 26, and had some close calls myself. It was a powerful yearning to be a good father that eventually inspired a sense of self-preservation, and in 1993 at the age of 30, I finally got that drugs were destructive and robbing my life force. I cut them out forever.However, as he hastens to mention, the temptation to go back to using has never fully gone away. “Temptation is a bitch, though. All my life I’ve gone through periods of horrific anxiety,” he laments. “I can meditate, exercise, pray, go to a shrink, work patiently and humbly through my most difficult relationship problems … Or I could just meet a dealer, cop a bag of dope for $50 and fix it all in a minute.”Flea’s self-reflection mirrors the thoughts of anyone who’s ever dealt with the unrelenting pulls of addiction. Even for people who have been clean for long periods of time, it’s a constant, conscious struggle to remain outside the grip of the drugs that once had a hold on them. “What I’ve learned is to always be grateful for my pain. That mindset has helped me stay away from the temptation of drugs,” Flea surmises.While Flea no longer lives in the seedy underworld of crime and narcotics, he warns that the danger of opioid addiction often doesn’t reside in that world either. Instead, it’s tied neatly with a bow and presented as an approved solution by the very people we trust with our own health. As he explains:Back when I was a petty thievin’ Hollywood street urchin running feral, and doing every drug in the book, the dangers were clear. Cops busted me, drug dealers burned me, accidental overdoses happened and scary gun-toting criminals lurked in the shadows. To step into this seedy world of narcotics was obviously dangerous.But what if your dealer was someone you’d trusted to keep you healthy since you were a kid? Many who are suffering today were introduced to drugs through their healthcare providers … It’s hard to beat temptation when the person supplying you has a fancy job and credentials and it’s usually bad advice not to trust them.Flea goes on to detail a recent experience with prescribed pain medication after breaking his arm while snowboarding. As he notes, “My doctor put me back together perfectly, and thanks to him I can still play bass with all my heart. But he also gave me a two-month supply of Oxycontin.”He explains that the dose prescribed was way too high, as a quarter of the prescribed amount would leave him in a haze: “I was high as hell when I took those things. It not only quelled my physical pain but all my emotions as well. I only took one a day, but I was not present for my kids, my creative spirit went into decline, and I became depressed.”Therein lies one of the biggest problems continuing to fuel the ongoing epidemic. These incredibly strong and addictive drugs are being prescribed with a heavy hand by doctors all over the country. In Flea’s case, he would have had most of his first month’s prescription left over when he was finished needing them and still would be able to get his bottle refilled. Two months of that is more than enough to create a habit, a dependence, and as we know all too well, opioids are a habit that not everyone is lucky enough to kick.In his editorial, Flea offers some concrete ideas on how we might curb these problems. He explains:There is obviously a time when painkillers should be prescribed, but medical professions should be more discerning. It’s also equally obvious that part of any opioid prescription should include follow-up, monitoring and a clear solution and path to rehabilitation if anyone becomes addicted. Big Pharma could pay for this with a percentage of their huge profits.Addiction is a cruel disease, and the medical community, together with the government, should offer help to all of those who need it.Famous people, normal people, good people, bad people, people you know—this issue doesn’t affect any certain “type” of person. Just about everyone you meet these days has a story about how opioid addiction has affected their life or the lives of their loved ones. The music world has lost several legendary artists to overdoses on legally prescribed medications. Both Prince and Tom Petty‘s deaths were attributed to an accidental overdose on prescription meds, including opioids.Vicky Cornell, the widow of late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, reached out to commend Flea on his essay. In the wake of Cornell’s suicide last year, Vicky has been vocal about her suspicion that a misprescribed dose of a prescription medication (in this case Ativan, which is a benzodiazepine, not an opioid, though no less dangerous when prescribed too heavily) was a driving factor in his actions. You can read her thoughts below: There’s no doubt that today’s world is over-medicated, and Flea offers some cold, hard truths to close out his thoughts:Life hurts. The world is scary and it’s easier to take drugs than work through pain, anxiety, injustice, and disappointment. But by starting with gratitude for the rough times, and valuing the lessons of our difficulties, we’ve got the opportunity to rise above them and be healthier and happier individuals who live above the strong temptation of addiction.You can read Flea’s editorial “The Temptation of Drugs Is a Bitch,” in its entirety here.Flea’s piece is part of a sprawling examination of the opioid crisis by TIME. The ongoing opioid addiction crisis is one of the most deadly health issues in U.S. history. According to TIME, drug overdoses now claim the lives of over 64,000 people per year and have become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.TIME magazine recently sent photographer James Nachtwey and deputy director of photography Paul Moakley across the country to gather stories from the frontlines of the epidemic. They compiled what they found in the form of The Opioid Diaries, a chilling documentary that illuminates the havoc that opioid addiction has wrought on the U.S. You can watch The Opioid Diaries below [Warning: Clips contain graphic content].The Opioid Diaries<span data-mce-type=”bookmark” style=”display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;” class=”mce_SELRES_start”></span>If you or a loved one are seeking help for drug addiction, contact www.samhsa.gov for information and support.In addition, you can visit ANR Clinic‘s comprehensive article on opioid withdrawal treatments to learn more about the subject if you or your loved ones are struggling with opioid addiction.[H/T TIME]last_img