The Truth About Heroin in Metal
As long as rock and roll has existed, it seems like heroin has been there for every rock star’s most despondent moments. Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious, Layne Staley and Dee Dee Ramone all died in-part, or directly, from heroin.
As much as rock music has been intertwined with junk, heavy metal has been affected too, beyond the “forever young” lore of the 27 Club. Heavy metal blueprinters like Tommy Bolin from Zephyr and Deep Purple, and Gary Thain of Uriah Heep both died from heroin in their 20s, while Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott was taken in his 30s.
Perhaps the most infamous heroin user in heavy metal was Nikki Sixx. He’s reportedly overdosed six times, and “Kickstart My Heart” was written about one of those nights. After Nikki’s pulse disappeared and his skin started turning blue, an EMT who recognized the Motley Crue bassist refused to give up on him, hitting the musician with a life-saving shot of adrenaline straight through his chest.
Our good friend Dave Brockie, though, wasn’t so lucky. By all accounts, Dave wasn’t even a longtime heroin user, he just dabbled with drugs every now and then. Unfortunately, that’s the game you play — take just a little too much and it’s all over. In 2014, the GWAR mastermind was found unresponsive and sitting upright in a chair. GWAR may have never truly gotten the respect they deserved, but when it comes to pure entertainers and mad scientists, Brockie was in his own league entirely.
But here’s the truth about heroin — it’s always been a problem, but it’s never been the problem. The problem has always been the prescription. Even in the early 1900s, heroin being prescribed by doctors, often to treat people for addiction, caused a boom in addiction.
In 1999, a record-high year for heroin overdoses, 1,960 deaths involving heroin occurred in the U.S. That same year, overdose deaths involving opioids (including heroin) accounted for 8,048 deaths. So in 1999, before most of us even knew what prescription opioids were, they were killing almost three time as many people as heroin.
Musicians like Steve Clark from Def Leppard, The Rev of Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot bassist Paul Gray and Static-X frontman Wayne Static were all unfortunate victims of the opioid and prescription pill epidemic, and because of prescription opioids, the heroin epidemic was worse than ever in 2017, with 15,482 heroin overdose deaths reported -- almost eight times as many as 1999.
Watch the video above to delve further into the Truth About Heroin in Metal.
27 Rockers Who Died at the Age of 27