In a raw music video for his new song “Drug Dealer,” hip-hop artist Macklemore paints a stark and moving picture of his personal struggle with prescription drug abuse, which mirrors a nationwide epidemic that has increased death rates among middle-age white people in the United States.
“My drug dealer was a doctor,” artist Ariana Deboo, who is featured on the track, sings during the hook. “He said that he would heal me, but he only gave me problems … I think he trying to kill me. Tried to kill me for a dollar.”
Macklemore, born Ben Haggerty, may be most famous for his 2013 single “Thrift Shop,” but the 33-year-old Grammy winner has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse while making strides in the music industry.
In a January 2014 interview with MTV News, the rapper divulged that as he wrote rhymes as a young adult, he dabbled in Oxycontin, an opioid that is now at the forefront of the U.S. epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half a million Americans died from drug overdoses between 2000 and 2014. Opioid overdose deaths, including those from heroin, hit record highs in 2014 and saw a 14 percent increase in only one year.
"[Oxycontin] is synthetic heroin, that's the definition of it," Macklemore told MTV News. "[I saw] the grip that it had, just doing it for five or six days, sweating through my sheets and coming off of it shaking."
In the music video for “Drug Dealer,” Macklemore is depicted sweating through his sheets and writhing in bed, apparently portraying what was once his-real life experience coping with withdrawal symptoms from opioids. At age 25, the Seattle native went into rehab, to which he credits his life.
Experts agree the nation’s current opioid abuse problem largely stems from overprescribing among doctors. That trend began in the 1990s after misrepresented research and a slew of advertisements by pharmaceutical companies prompted changes in the medical field and downplayed opioid risks. Doctors, who were once criticized for undertreating pain, began to re-evaluate their drug prescription practices.
But those changes have done more harm than good, many experts argue.
More than 40 Americans die every day from painkiller overdoses, which CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said earlier this year is “doctor-driven.”
In March, the CDC urged doctors to prescribe physical therapy, exercise and over-the-counter pain medications before opting for painkillers to address chronic pain.
But today, amid greater awareness of opioid dangers among doctors, many physically dependent patients are turning to the street to obtain cheaper illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Fentanyl, which killed the late pop star Prince, is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the CDC.
In a July 2015 interview with Us magazine, Macklemore admitted that in 2014, after recording his breakout album “The Heist,” he relapsed, and resumed abusing pills and smoking weed.
When he learned his partner, Tricia Davis, was pregnant with their first child in September 2014, he sought help again and tried to get clean.
“I’ve been trying to grow up this year,” he told the magazine. “Since I heard that Tricia was pregnant, I was like, ‘I need to grow up right now.’”
As of Wednesday afternoon, “Drug Dealer” had nearly half a million views on YouTube.