People sometimes romanticize the use of drugs and alcohol despite the number of times rockstars kill themselves because of it.
In a study conducted by Ian Hamilton of Alcohol Research, he described the normal scenario at rock concerts as overflowing with alcohol, LSD, and all sorts of party drugs. He even mentioned that these substances are “ubiquitous” at these events. Also, numerous hit songs allude to alcohol, drug use, and substance abuse. It’s as if substance abuse is alright if you’re a rock star.
Highly-successful rock ‘n’ roll musicians may have literally “partied like rock stars” by popping pills, smoking marijuana, and binge-drinking while snorting cocaine.
In these cases, drug rehab could have helped address the problem, and they could have been given a better chance.
Here are 10 rock ‘n’ roll bands that went downhill because of substance abuse.
1. Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd
Years after chronic use of drugs Syd Barret, co-founder of Pink Floyd ended up with schizophrenia, a mental health condition where one suffers from hallucinations and delusions that can be intensified by the use of mind-altering substances.
2. Jimi Hendrix
Like many rock n’ roll artists popular during his time, Jimi Hendrix’s health was worsened by substance abuse. In the 1970’s, the guitarist confessed to having used marijuana, cocaine, and LSD. At the latter part of that same year, Hendrix died of complications resulting from a barbiturate overdose.
3. Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath
Ozzy Osbourne, one of the most popular rock ‘n’ roll musicians of all time, was a self-confessed cocaine user. In one of his biographies, it was mentioned that Osbourne and his band Black Sabbath had spent almost $80,000 on cocaine in the year 1972. Also, in another account, it was mentioned that he and his band also had profuse amounts of the drug carried and taken to them by private airplanes.
4. Nikki Sixx and Mötley Crüe
Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe depended too much on alcohol, heroin, and cocaine in the 1980’s, after consistently engaging in drug use in the early years of his career. Sixx said that he experienced psychosis on Christmas Day of 1986 because of being high on cocaine.
In 1987, he overdosed on heroin and was even declared dead. Fortunately, two minutes later and after receiving adrenaline shots, he was revived. This didn’t stop him though. After the said battle between life and death, he went home and used more heroin. Luckily, he just passed out.
In 2001, he gave up drugs for good and six years after that, he wrote the book “The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star.”
5. Kurt Cobain and Nirvana
In 1994, Kurt Cobain, Nirvana’s front man, shot himself to death, high on Valium and heroin. Before his death, he had a persistent drug problem. He started using heroin in the early parts of his career and would even take the same with his wife, singer Courtney Love.
Weeks prior to his death, Cobain entered a drug treatment facility in Los Angeles. Krist Novoselic, his band mate, told in an interview that Cobain was heavily high on heroin days prior his suicide.
6. Kristen Pfaff and Hole
Two months after the death of Kurt Cobain, Kristen Pfaff, bass player of the rock band Hole, also died of a heroin overdose. Her fatal overdose occurred after years of a highly-publicized battle with mental illness and heroin addiction.
7. Layne Staley and Alice in Chains
Layne Staley, the lead vocalist of the band Alice in Chains, is another rock musician who also battled with heroin addiction. He started taking heroin very early in his career. He stopped using the substance after an increased opioid tolerance since he was no longer able get the same high as when he used it first. His sober days didn’t last long though.
According to Steven Tyler, lead vocalist of Aerosmith, cocaine helped him and his band boost their stamina. The stress they experienced from world tours and concerts made them seek support from alcohol and drugs. Tyler even said that it was “very difficult to relax after three-hour sets in front of capacity crowds, so after every show and while they’re on a tour bus or in their hotels, they used drugs and alcohol to relax.”
Though Aerosmith is still producing records today, their popularity has decreased considerably.
9. Chris Cornell of Audioslave and Soundgarden
Grunge-rock legend and lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, Chris Cornell, died by suicide on May 18, 2017. He was found dead in a hotel room at MGM Grand Casino, Detroit.
Investigators found seven kinds of deadly drugs in Chris Cornell’s system, including barbiturates, naloxone, pseudoephedrine, and Ativan. Though drug use was not stated in the autopsy report as a contributory factor to Cornell’s death, his widow firmly believed that the rock star’s use of Ativan made him develop suicidal thoughts.
10. Chester Bennington and Linkin Park
Rock artist Chester Bennington of Linkin Park dealt with alcohol addiction for a long time. In 2008, he opened up that he was sexually assaulted when he was a child. The said abuse caused him much suffering and contributed to a lot his struggle with substance abuse.
Bennington killed himself in his California home in July 2017, only a month after Chris Cornell’s death.
Alcohol and drug addiction among rock musicians can be attributed to many factors.
Rock musicians are often packed with grueling schedules, that they don’t get ample amount of rest. As a result, they develop feelings of despair and endless pressure to be successful.
Denny Kolsch, a licensed mental health counselor who studies and concentrates in addiction and mood-related disorders, said that “the rock ‘n’ roll culture boosts substance use, leading many artists to play with and mix and match drugs and alcohol.”
“When you’re aiming and searching for approval, it is always easier to use drugs and alcohol than to be sober,” added Kolsch.
The issue with substance abuse in music is culture. It needs to change, and hopefully in the future others will look at these instances and realize the change.