On September 7, 2018, the world lost another artist in the tragic face of drugs. Mac Miller – a talented rapper, singer, and producer – was found dead in his home following a suspected drug overdose. Mac Miller, whose real name is Malcolm McCormick, was only 26-years-old at the time of his death.
While the toxicology report has yet to be released, Mac Miller’s death has provoked a much-needed conversation regarding drugs and mental health – specifically, the dangers of drug abuse, the reality of addiction, and the emotional struggles that often intertwine. Mac Miller was often open about all of these demons he battled, in his lyrics as well as interviews. We knew of his history with drug abuse.
Mac Miller’s career kicked off in 2011, when he released his debut album Blue Slide Park. The party-rap record quickly made top-of-charts, and the 19-year-old Pittsburgh artist moved to Los Angeles to further his music career. He booked 53 shows in a six-month period. While he remained No. 1, he still faced harsh and unforgiving reviews, like any upcoming artist. His problems got worse with his next Macadelic album and tour in 2012. The bad reviews, combined with the ongoing, grueling tour schedule, was what first drove Mac Miller to the drug scene.
The rapper started smoking marijuana regularly to cope with stress while on tour. Then he turned to other drugs to try to manage his mental state. Specifically, he used a mixed drug cocktail called “lean,” a combination of promethazine – an addictive sedative – and codeine – a schedule II narcotic found in cough medicine. Somewhere along the line, a 2013 Complex interview reveals, Miller became addicted.
“I love lean; it’s great,” Mac Miller told Complex magazine. “I was not happy and I was on lean very heavy [during the Macadelic tour.] I was so f–ed up all the time it was bad. My friends couldn’t even look at me the same. I was lost.”
We know that mixed drug combinations are dangerous. More than likely, Mac Miller knew it as well. Mixing drugs can lead to fatal effects on the body, as we detailed in our “Cocaine and Heroin Mix” article, and it’s hard to predict how a person’s body will react. While Mac Miller’s toxicology report is still left to guessing, it is possible that his overdose was due to a combination of substances in his system. We’ve seen this happen with many celebrities of late, particularly due to the dangerous drug called fentanyl.
Mac Miller released a 12-minute, personal YouTube documentary, Stopped Making Excuses, in February 2016. In it, we hear the artist candidly talk about his struggle with drugs. He explained that marijuana was actually the gateway into his harder drug use: “I needed to get a drug that was a little more numbing, if you will… I think that’s what really sparked me doing other drugs, because I hate being sober. I wanted a drug to do.”
But his drug use started long before his music career. In addition to dealing drugs in high school, Mac Miller has told sources that he started using drugs at a mere 15-years-old – a time in which the brain is going through major, dynamic changes. As we know, drug use disrupts this process, making a young person much more vulnerable to addiction.
Like many people battling addiction and mental health issues, it was difficult for Mac Miller to see that a drug problem had surfaced. He knew he didn’t look as good, or act completely normal, but it was hard for him to see the reality of his addiction. Maybe out of shame, maybe for the sheer fact that he enjoyed doing drugs. After drunk-driving and crashing into a light pole last year, Miller denied rumors that he was a “drug addict” to Rolling Stone:
“If a bunch of people think I am a huge drug addict, OK. Cool. What can I really do? … Have I done drugs? Yeah. But am I a drug addict? No.”
Drug addiction is scary and stigma’ed, leading many people to hide their addictions rather than actively fix them. Mac Miller may have been affected by this stigma in part – that stigma around the word “addict” and the faces people make when they hear it. The truth is, addiction is not something to be ashamed of. But it is something to be addressed. Much like diabetes, addiction is a chronic disease. It is a disease of the brain that changes how people think, make decisions, and behave. And it can have a detrimental impact on a person’s lives, and the lives of those around him.
In Stopped Making Excuses, which was released prior to Mac Miller’s overdose, Miller also claimed he would “never stop” doing drugs, because he enjoyed them so much. This is one of the many reasons that people battling addiction never get the help they need – they do not want to get sober. In the same 2016 video, Miller also said that “overdosing” — which allegedly caused his death — was “not cool.”
“I’d rather be the corny white rapper than the drugged-out mess that can’t even get out of his house. Overdosing is just not cool. There’s no legendary romance. You don’t go down in history because you overdosed. You just die.” He continues to explain, “I get super f—ed up, still, all the time. That will never stop. But I’m in control of my life. I’m not f—ed up right now. I’m chillin.”
Along the way in his career, Mac Miller’s style turned from party-starting songs to dark, ominous beats and lyrics. His tenth solo mixtape, Faces, exhibits the newer sound perfectly, full of unpromising lyrics about hard drugs and reveries of premature death. In one song, Miller discussed his battle with depression, explaining how “a drug habit like Philip Hoffman will probably put me in a coffin.”
In an article from Entertainment Tonight, he is quoted: “Before, I was super-insular all the time, just staying in a room by myself, and it’s so easy to paint this horrible picture of life when you’re not giving yourself a chance to live it. I was too worried about the legacy that I would leave behind – how I would be remembered if I died,” he confessed. “That was my whole thing. Like, you never know, man, so I’ve got to make sure I make all this music so when I die there’s albums and albums.”
He continued to say that he was worried about dying, as well, because he was “doing a lot of drugs” – “It just eats at your mind, doing drugs every single day, every second. It’s rough on your body. That was the plan with Faces’ [closing song]. ‘Grand Finale’ was supposed to be the last song I made on earth.”
In addition to battling drug abuse and addiction, Mac Miller also had a history of mental health struggles. It is clear he used his music as a diary to chronicle these inner demons. His most recent album, Swimming, released just before his death in August 2018, also reflects this darker side of the beloved rap artist. Vulture describes the rapper as “most concerned with quieting stress and seeking out lasting peace” in his recent album.
Tell myself to hold on / I can feel my fingers slipping / in a mother—in instant I’ll be gone.
– “Small Worlds,” off Swimming
Mac Miller’s battle with depression, intertwined with drug use, is not uncommon. Mac Miller and Robin Williams are just some of the many examples of individuals with depression and drug addiction co-occurring – just two of the 7.7 million people battling co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. These people, all fighting similar fights, often turn to drugs to escape or cope with their emotional pains. The problem is, drugs exacerbate depressive symptoms. Drug use and depression affect the same areas of the brain, changing how a person thinks and feels. In treatment terms, co-occurring disorders are sometimes called “dual diagnosis.”
In one of Mac Miller’s more recent interviews, he tries to put words to his depressive state. When asked how he manages hurt feelings and negativity, he says, “I really wouldn’t want just happiness. And I don’t want just sadness either. I don’t want to be depressed. I want to be able to have good days and bad days.” Like many individuals battling depression, he found those better days with parties and drug use.
When a person battling co-occurring disorders, it is critical to get proper, professional help. Left untreated, these disorders can have detrimental effects on the brain, mental state, and overall quality of life. Integrated, dual diagnosis treatment is highly recommended in these types of situations. To the same end, it is highly recommended that a person battling a drug addiction or a mental health issue also get proper help. Studies show that mental health disorders can lead to drug addiction, and vice versa. If someone you know and love is at all at risk – of addiction, mental health issues, or even overdose – please do not hesitate to seek help. You can be the change; the positive light in their lives.
Contact Turnbridge at 877-581-1793 for information about our dual diagnosis treatment programs in Connecticut – or even just to chat. You should never feel scared or ashamed of asking for help. Drug addiction is treatable, and recovery is always possible.