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Addiction in the Media: Macklemore Draws Attention to the Opiate Epidemic

Hip-hop artist Macklemore, aka Ben Haggerty, has been making waves in the media over the past several weeks.

The Grammy award winner, who has collaborated with producer Ryan Lewis on a series of hit singles, has been extremely candid about his battle with opioid addiction and alcoholism. After attending treatment in 2008, he achieved three years of sobriety before suffering a relapse in 2011, and again in 2014.

In an interview with Complex, Macklemore described bargaining with himself during his most recent relapse. “You know, like, Monday, I’ma stop…. OK. Tuesday, I’ma stop. […] I might as well go on to the weekend. Sunday, I’m done. But after this bag of weed…”

With the release of The Heist in 2012, Macklemore faced firsthand the stressors of sudden fame. By his own admission, he became less focused on his recovery, and stopped going to the 12-step meetings that had served as a foundation for his sobriety.

When his now-wife discovered that she was pregnant, he took the news as a wake-up call to resume meetings and reconnect with his recovery.

Macklemore and Lewis’ subsequent album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, contains a tribute to a friend, Kevin, who was also an aspiring rapper. Shortly after becoming sober, Kevin died from an overdose.

“If I don’t share Kevin’s story, if I don’t participate in a community of sobriety, I could very easily wake up — not wake up, like Kevin,” said Macklemore.

Through the song “Kevin” and multiple other Macklemore/Lewis tracks, the music duo has brought meaningful attention to an epidemic that continues to plague our society.

For Macklemore, this month of October has been one of cultivating even more awareness. On Oct. 11, MTV premiered ‘Prescription for Change: Ending America’s Opioid Crisis,’ a project which the singer executive produced and starred in. The one-hour documentary features stories of young people in recovery, Macklemore’s own experiences with addiction, and a frank conversation with the President concerning governmental action in response to the opioid epidemic.

Two weeks later, on October 25, Macklemore’s new track “Drug Dealer” debuted with a music video that ignited thousands of comments on social media. The response, largely positive, admired his honest, at times harrowing, portrayal of addiction. The video garnered over 1.5 million views within two days of its release.

In an Instagram post addressing the overwhelming response to the video, Macklemore wrote in part, “In the last 48 hours, there’s been amazing discourse online. I’ve been reading the comments and hearing how people have been affected by this disease and prescription medication. Talking about their pain and process. And in that honesty, we get better.”

It is this honesty that has established Macklemore as an advocate for recovery, and an artist who has used his talent to connect with and benefit a community.

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