Rappers' connection to opioids

By: Jeremiah Pearson

Image of assorted pills taken from Google.com

     During every era, there is something that defines each generation. Today, opioids are on trend to define the current generation, and some associate the inappropriate use of the drugs to emo rappers. In 2018, the Justice Department attributed many opioid deaths to rappers due to different drugs mentioned in the rappers’ music. James J. Hunt, the New York Police Department special agent in charge, said, “This investigation led us into the underbelly of emo rap and its glorification of opioid use.” Lil Peep, an emo rapper who died from a fentanyl and Xanax overdose in November 2018, frequently mentioned the use of opioids in his music.


     More recently, rapper Mac Miller died. “It was not necessarily a lethal amount of one drug that caused him to overdose. Rather, it was a combination of substances. Mac Miller overdosed on a deadly mix of cocaine and fentanyl, and with alcohol in his system, as well,” according to Turnbridge.com.


     Local country artist Jon King agrees many artists in this generation cause many young people to use opioids. “Rap music is not the same anymore; they talk about stuff that harms this generation instead on motivating,” said King.


     He went on to talk about the late ‘90s rapper, The Notorious Biggie Smalls. “What Biggie rapped about was getting money and motivating yourself to do better,” said King.


     King also thinks rappers like J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar are talking about change and growth. “J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar are great rappers as a whole. They don’t talk about using drugs but the opposite,” said King.


     While King believes some rap music and opioids are correlated, many others think differently. Josh Vasquez, who listens to all types of music, does not think it is the rappers’ fault for the correlation. “There are so many other factors of why people take opioids, and to blame rappers is not fair,” said Vasquez. He explains many people get addicted at a young age due to doctors and what they prescribe. “As far as kids and teenagers taking drugs, it’s easy to get addicted. That’s why I feel just as alcohol and tobacco has an age limit, certain drugs shouldn’t be prescribed to people under a certain age,” said Vasquez. 


     According to WebMD, there is a difference between tolerance and addiction. Tolerance is after taking opioid pain medication for a while, the body needs more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect in easing pain. Whereas addiction is when opioid medications are used over an extended period of time.


     Is rap the main factor in why people take opioids? Can we really blame people for telling stories with music about what they have seen and done?
 

This project was born out of a desire to cover the issues that face our community and region, specifically the Appalachian Highlands, The Blue Ridge Mountains, and Greater Appalachia.