The Opioid Epidemic and the Hip -hop industry


This morning I went on my Twitter and saw a Tweet from rapper Lil Uzi.

He says “Sober day 2, I have been shaking. I have been cursing my love ones and fighting. In the studio with no thoughts in my head. Teeth biting down because I just wanna be angry at something. Maybe I will just smoke weed tonight.”

Uzi is cold turking his addiction to Xanax. I Tweeted 15 Tweets to rapper Lil Uzi this morning encouraging him to keep on pushing ! I wanted his ATTENTION !!! I shared my story, and told him, if there was hope for me there is hope for you !!! Don’t give up !!!!! Put your faith up !!!!

When news of Lil Peep’s death spread earlier this week, Lil Uzi Vert tweeted: “We would love 2 stop ….. but do you really care cause we been on xanax all fucking year.” Empathizing with Lil Peep’s situation, he added, “Rip buddy I 100% understand and I don’t fault u.”

Taking a step further, Uzi seems to be taking a break from drugs in light of speculation that Lil Peep passed away due to a drug overdose.

As the music world grapples with Lil Peep’s death, Uzi’s proactive response is admirable and encouraging, while his detailed messages reinforce just how complicated and difficult addiction is.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that rappers were in love with MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine commonly known as ecstasy)

But the newest culprit is a medication that is typically taken to reduce anxiety: Xanax. Last January, A$AP Yams was found dead after mixing Xanax, which is a form of benzodiazepine, with codeine cough syrup. More recently, artists like Future and Father have glorified its use, prompting musicians like OG Maco and Chance the Rapper to publicly decried its use amongst their young fans. The drug is typically prescribed for anxiety disorders and insomnia, and is extremely addictive on its own. But when mixed with alcohol, the effects of Xanax are compounded and the result is a euphoric feeling of carelessness that can drive some people to dependance.

The drug itself is nothing new, with Lil Wayne rapping “I am a prisoner, locked up behind Xanax bars” back in 2008 on “I Feel Like Dying.” But with some doctors prescribing the pills for everything from lack of sleep to combating nerves from flying, the drugs seems to be easier than ever to obtain. Combine this accessibility with the drug’s relatively low price point of $10 for a bar (ranging in dosage from 1 mg to 2.5 mg) and you can see why it’s become enough of an epidemic that some rappers feel the need to warn young fans.

What Xanax does to the body and mind

Benzodiazepines produces their calming effect by binding to specific sites on the GABA receptors located in the brain. After a prolonged period of use, Xanax and Ativan can cause changes to the GABA receptors in the brain, making them less susceptible to stimulation. Eventually an individual builds up a tolerance to these medications and requires them to take more and more dosages in order to produce the initial effects. Additionally, for individuals who have become physically dependent, reduced consumption will lead to withdrawal effects. It can be extremely difficult to overcome prescription drug abuse without proper professional treatment. Due to the potentially life threatening symptoms associated with withdrawal from these types of medications it is important that individuals do not attempt cessation of Xanax or Ativan without proper medical supervision. This way proper detox can be provided where an individual can go through withdrawal in a safe and managed environment.

Interview from Arielle Salama, an outpatient and emergency room doctor and psychiatrist

To find out exactly what Xanax does when it’s in your system, we decide to ask Dr. Salama who works in the emergency room and deals with the drug often, so we wanted to know how much Xanax it takes to overdose, and if Future’s claim of doing “56 bars all in one month” is as dangerous as some have claimed….

So what exactly is Xanax?
Xanax is a benzodiazepine, which is a family of drugs. Ativan, which is the corporate name of Lorazepam, or Klonopin, are two other common forms of the drug. I’d say that half of everyone who comes into the ER is on one of those.

When would someone genuinely need those drugs?
Those drugs would be prescribed for typically for anxiety disorders, panic attacks, insomnia or alcohol withdrawal.

How many Xanax do you have to take at once for it to be potentially life threatening?
People can take up to 6 mg in a day. That wouldn’t be life threatening, but would be a lot. It would also depend on your tolerance level. So if 6mg is the upper limit for Xanax, that would be like 3-5 pills a day. I think if you took that many at once, you wouldn’t be doing well. I mean the thing with these drugs when they get to be most dangerous is if they’re combined with alcohol or with other opioids.

Is codeine an opioid?
Yes codeine is an opioid. That’s how Heath Ledger died, because he had all 3 of those drugs in his system at once. (alcohol, codeine, and xanax)

If you overdose on opioids you can shut down your respiratory system, but all of 3 of those types of substances (alcohol, codeine, and xanax) don’t let you respond to the signals that basically force you to breathe, so if you combine any 2 or 3 of them you’re definitely in more trouble.

Future claims to have done 56 Xanax in one month ????
It depends on the person’s tolerance level, how long they’ve been on the pill, and the pill dosage. I wouldn’t recommend that someone takes that much, but he’s actually within the limit, like a pharmacy will dispense that to you, it’s completely above board. The thing is he would probably be using them with a bunch of other stuff.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, opioid abuse has reached epidemic numbers. Although the incidence of abuse and overdose have largely affected suburban communities, controlled prescription drugs have been seeping into Hip Hop culture for two decades.

As “responsible artist” artist need to remember that they’re influencing a generation of kids who can’t think for themselves….

Knowledge is power.

Thank you for reading

Chekesha Kay Ellis

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