Hip-hop artist Macklemore and President Barack Obama appeared in a video over the weekend to address the opioid addiction epidemic in the United States and urge better treatment and recovery efforts for opioid addiction.
The pair appeared in the president’s weekly address that aired on Saturday, in which Obama noted that drug overdoses kill more people annually than traffic accidents and that opioid overdose deaths have tripled since 2000.
Obama cited a recent national study that found 44 percent of Americans personally know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers, legal medicines that often are prescribed by a doctor.
“So addiction doesn’t always start in some dark alley — it often starts in a medicine cabinet,” Obama said in the video.
During the conversation, the Grammy Award-winning rapper, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, shared his personal struggles with addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs. He also mentioned a friend, Kevin, who overdosed on pain medication at age 21.
“I take this personally. I abused prescription drugs, and I have battled addiction,” Macklemore said. “I wanna help others facing the same challenges that I did.”
The star has previously been open about experiences and challenges with addiction. In 2015, he opened up to Complex magazine about a relapse he had while working on a new album, citing the pressures that come with fame.
He shared that he was taking pills and smoking marijuana and that he stopped going to his 12-step meetings at that time. It took his fiancee’s pregnancy in 2014 to make him clean up his act, he said.
“Addiction is like any other disease — it doesn’t discriminate,” Macklemore said during the address. “It doesn’t care what color you are, whether you’re a guy or a girl, rich or poor, whether you live in the inner city, a suburb, or rural America.
“This doesn’t just happen to other people’s kids or in some other neighborhood. It can happen to any of us.”
The rapper also expressed concern about the stigma surrounding addiction and how it is important that people know where to get help.
“Shame and the stigma associated with the disease keeps too many people from seeking the help that they actually need. Addiction isn’t a personal choice or a personal failing, and sometimes it takes more than a strong will to get better. It takes a strong community and accessible resources.”
He added, “We have to tell people who need help that it’s OK to ask for it. We gotta make sure they know where to get it.”
President Obama and Macklemore’s conversation comes ahead of a one-hour documentary reported to air on MTV this summer that will include the two discussing the problem more, which the CDC has classified as epidemic.
Opioid deaths hit epidemic levels, CDC says
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has classified the opioid problem as an epidemic, drug overdose deaths hit record numbers in 2014.
That year, 28,000 fatal overdoses were related to prescription pain relievers and heroin, more than any year on record, the agency said.
It also reports that the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin, have nearly quadrupled since 1999, and that at least half of all opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.
Also, since 1999, the amount of prescription drugs sold in the US nearly quadrupled despite there not being an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans reported.
“We now know that overdoses from prescription opioid pain relievers are a driving factor in the 15-year increase in opioid overdose deaths,” the CDC said.
Heroin use rises, data show
According to data reviewed by the CDC, “from 2002-2013, past month heroin use and past year heroin use and heroin addiction have all increased among 18-25-year-olds.” The number of people who started to use the drug during the past year has also increased, according to CDC data.
Another key finding: Data show that among new heroin users, about three out of four people report abusing prescription opioids before using heroin. Wider availability, low cost, and increased purity of the drug in the US have all been identified as possible factors in why heroin use has increased in the US.
An increase in heroin deaths has also been noted. According to data on the agency’s website, heroin deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014.
Over-the-counter drugs involved
The problem has evolved to the point where even non-prescription drugs are not off limits to opioid users. A recently published study from the Annals of Emergency Medicine revealed that an increase among opioid users are using anti-diarrheal medicine, commonly sold under the brand name Imodium, to manage their withdrawal symptoms while others are seeking it for a euphoric high.
The results can be toxic and fatal when taken in higher doses than recommended.
What Obama’s administration is doing
Obama has proposed a $1.1 billion investment to expand drug treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use.
“This funding will boost efforts to help individuals with an opioid use disorder seek treatment, successfully complete treatment, and sustain recovery,” said a White House press release in February 2016.
In Saturday’s address, Obama repeated his call for more funding and said more needs to be done to get treatment to the people who need it.
He highlighted that Congress has taken action on several measures to address opioid use. The House recently passed measures that establish federal grants, but Obama said more investments need to be made in treatment to get people the help they need.
The administration is working with communities to help reduce overdose deaths and local law enforcement officials to help get people into treatment instead of jail, he said, and he also noted that under Obamacare, health plans in the marketplace are required to offer treatment.
He called on Congress to expand access to recovery services and to equip first-responders with the tools they need to treat people who overdose.
Doctors, he said, need more training about the powerful medicines they prescribe and the risks associated with those medicines.
Why recovery matters
For many, the path to treatment and recovery is a matter of life and death. Macklemore credits his recovery as the reason he’s here to help others get help for their addictions.
“If I hadn’t gotten the help I needed when I needed, I definitely would not be here today,” Macklemore said in Saturday’s address.
“I know recovery isn’t easy or quick, but along with the 12-step program, treatment saved my life,” Macklemore said in the taped address. “Recovery works — and we need our leaders in Washington to fund it and people to know how to find it.”
If you are or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, there is treatment available and the time to call is now. At Recovery Hub, we understand how difficult and complex the disease of addiction can be, especially that of a drug as destructive as opioids.
Our staff members are available 24-7 and ready to connect you with an addiction specialist nearest you. Call Recovery Hub today at 1-888-220-4352.