Rapper Eminem has opened up about his prescription drug abuse in a documentary, offering an important warning during these times of epidemic level prescription drug problems across America.
The film is a satirical look at the war on drugs, entitled “How to Make Money Selling Drugs,” which features interviews with celebrities as well as those involved in both the law enforcement and drug-peddling sides of the issue.
However, since speculation has been widespread about Eminem’s drug use, and he’s publicly struggled with addiction before, there is much interest in his portion of the film in the media. The story is all-too-familiar, but the important detail is the prescription element of the drug involved, reminding us all once again that it isn’t just illegal drugs that are potentially addictive.
Eminem’s relapse and recovery
As one of the most famous rappers of the 21st century, the fact that two of Eminem’s (real name Marshall Mathers) albums are entitled “Relapse” and “Recovery” won’t have escaped the attention of many. His problems with drugs have been relatively public, having entered rehab in 2005 for his addiction to prescription medicines like Xanax and Valium. He also reportedly used Vicodin and methadone, but he claimed to have been taking so much sleeping medication he couldn’t even estimate the number of pills he popped each day.
In the interview for the new film, he claims that he used to ignore anybody who told him he had a problem, claiming that he wasn’t shooting heroin, snorting coke, or smoking crack (with added expletives). Soon afterward, he was hospitalized because of his drug abuse. In the film, he says, “Had I got to the hospital two hours later, I would have died. My organs were shutting down. My liver, kidneys, everything.… They didn’t think I was going to make it.”
He tried to get better, having hit a low point and becoming aware of the risks he was taking. However, after knee surgery for which he wasn’t prescribed medication, he started searching his house for a stash of Vicodin. He found a handful of pills and relapsed, but soon afterward he admitted that he had a serious problem. He managed to kick his addiction, and in the new film he shares his story alongside many others.
One of the key moments in his story is when he recognized that addiction ran in his family, and reconnecting with his mother as a result. Mathers used to think that it wasn’t possible to function or be happy in life without being on some type of substance, according to the interview, but that his sense of responsibility to his children helped him realize he had to get control of himself. He added in the documentary that “I would say to anybody, it does get better.’”
Prescription drug abuse
Like many Americans, prescription medicines were Eminem’s drugs of choice. However, since they kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined, they are far from the safe, legal drugs they seem. Doctors may prescribe medicines such as Vicodin and Valium for legitimate medical conditions, but stories like this remind us all that they do have the potential for abuse. In fact, they’re often similar in chemical properties to many illicit drugs, so they carry many of the same risks.
A warning and a message of hope
The new film encourages a rethink of the global war on drugs which is so obviously a gross failure, and does so through a tongue-in-cheek “how to” guide to profiting from the drug war. It’s an important message, and one that is getting out more and more regularly, but the personal stories really drive the message home. High profile stars like Eminem opting to open up about their drug addictions give the rest of us important insight into the damage addiction does to lives.
Mathers’ story is another much-needed warning about the risks of prescription drug abuse; especially because of his brush with death. However, it’s more importantly a positive message of hope for anybody struggling with an addiction. After spending years assuming that because he wasn’t taking illicit drugs he didn’t have a problem, he was able to see the truth about his addiction and do something about it. It isn’t just a story of an affluent celebrity falling into substance abuse; it’s a story of a man making a positive change in his life after being inspired by his parental responsibility. As a result, he even reconnected with estranged members of his family and approached his career with renewed vigor.
Celebrity stories aren’t a greater source of hope than the story of any addict who managed to kick drugs would be, but they are inevitably more widely dispersed. Perhaps he has a cushier job to fall back on than most of us, but his story is still a positive one for anybody tackling addiction. As he says in the documentary, it does get better.