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Column: Drugs & Rock’n’Roll

Drug abuse continues to plague music.

Sounding OFF is Salute Magazine’s  weekly music column, authored by Music Editor Daniel Offner. The column is a weekly analysis of all things music. This week’s column focuses on the correlation between drug abuse and music. 

In light of the recent passing of ‘90s grunge rock icon, Chris Cornell, this week’s column has a much more somber and heartfelt message. Music and drugs go together better than chocolate and peanut butter, and nobody knew that better than Cornell.

Although the late-Soundgarden co-founder reportedly committed suicide by hanging, according to The Associated Press, Cornell has had a checkered past with drug abuse. He experienced the true evil that drugs reap, on March 16, 1990, when he put to rest his former roommate and Mother Love Bone frontman, Andrew Wood.

He later went on to form the supergroup, Temple of the Dog, with the remaining members of Mother Love Bone and future Pearl Jam vocalist, Eddie Vedder, in 1991, before going off to pursue a different musical conquest.

Cornell would again, pick up the pieces of a broken band, in 2001, when he formed the band Audioslave with former members of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk. The band went on to release three albums over a six-year span and would receive three GRAMMY Award nominations. They also became the first American rock band in history to perform a concert in Cuba since the U.S. placed sanctions on the island nation in the 1960s.

In an interview back in 2007, Cornell said he was only able to beat his addictions after, “a long period of coming to the realization that this way [sober] is better.”

“Going through rehab, honestly, did help… it got me away from just the daily drudgery of depression and either trying to not drink or do drugs or doing them and you know, they give you such a simple message that any idiot can get and it’s just over and over,” Cornell said. “But the bottom line is really, and this is the part that is scary for everyone, the individual kind of has to want it… not kinda, you have to want it and to not do that crap anymore or you will never stop and it will just kill you.”


During the filthy, post-punk underground movement that was grunge, in the early ‘90s, the drug of choice was heroin… one of the most lethal highs ever invented.

Heroin is nothing short of an illusion. It produces an unnatural and euphoric high the likes of which have never been experienced. The active ingredient, opium, has been abused by dope fiends for centuries… but it wasn’t until the 1960’s that it was available in such a cheap and easily accessible wrapper.

Drugs are seldom ever pure and will produce a devilish illusion, one that makes the user think that they can escape daily nuisances, stress, and pain by turning to the needle instead. But pain is an important part of life. We all feel it. Especially, when one of our favorite artists suddenly dies. It is important to keep pain in perspective, and try and balance the good with the bad, because opiates build dependency… making you sicker, weaker and sometimes feeling hopeless, without it.

The truth is, as bad as the world may seem sometimes, it is important to hold onto that hope. That hope that one day whatever stress you’re feeling, whatever pain ails you, will just vanish, because self-medicating or abusing drugs only has two ways out… prison or a body bag.

Sadly, this drug has taken so many more lives than just our favorite celebrities. It has taken the lives of those we care about, the ones we know and love, who did all they could to bring joy into the world. And when it ultimately snuffs out the fire burning inside, all we can really do is try to understand the pain they were going through and how difficult it must have been to shed the bad times, to try and make more good times, only to wind up back in that same hole they had been digging for themselves all along.

It has become an epidemic in suburban communities across the country, one which preys on the young and impressionable.

Heroin addiction had been responsible for the most accidental overdoses in musicians, with a list that extends from the Hippy Generation (Janis Joplin), to the era of Punk music (Dee Dee Ramone, G.G. Allin, Sid Vicious) and all throughout the Grunge scene (Bradley Nowell of Sublime, Layne Staley of Alice in Chains).


This brings us to our newest, most dangerous drug, fentanyl, which was reportedly responsible for the death of Prince Rogers Nelson, last year.

Similar to heroin in some ways, as it is a synthetic opioid used to treat severe pain, fentanyl is 50-to-100 times more potent than morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and can be consumed in various ways.

Fentanyl has become even more lethal in recent years, as it is often mistaken for heroin and is responsible for thousands of accidental overdose deaths in the past 17 years.

To counter the trend of opioid abuse, Naloxone, which is used to counter the effects of the drug, was invented with the goal of helping addicts overcome their opioid dependency. More commonly known as Narcan, the drug has proven effective in victims who overdose on opioids.

However, in the face of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, the Center for Disease Control recommends that multiple doses of naloxone be administered, considering the drug has a higher potency. According to the CDC, in 2014, more than 80 percent of fentanyl-related seizures occurred in 10 states, including Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire and Indiana.

Just a few days prior to his death, Prince reportedly overdosed and was given a shot of Narcan. According to the Star Tribune, the beloved pop music icon left the hospital a few hours later, despite medical advice.

When the artist died, on June 3, 2016, medics were unable to resuscitate him after collapsing in the elevator at his home in Paisley Park.


If you or someone you know or care about is struggling with addiction, don’t be afraid to seek help. Keeping it a secret will only lead to more lies and creates an aura of distrust. Eventually, you will have to face the problem head on.

To find treatment nearest you, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The call is free and confidential.

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