Comment Writer Colette Fountain takes a closer look at Mac Miller’s tragic death and how many like it can be prevented in the future
Mac Miller was never one to shy away from discussing his drug addiction, which began with the use of promethazine to cope with the stress of his 2012 Macadelic Tour and ended with an overdose on 7th September 2018. Listening to Mac’s music, you get a sense of the ways his attitude to drugs changed. In 2011’s ‘Donald Trump’ he intros the song laughingly saying ‘this man is kinda high over here’ but just four years later he raps ‘to everyone who sell me drugs don’t mix it with that bullshit’ – the tragic irony being that he never did ‘join the 27 club’ that he was so afraid of. While Miller was hoping to outlive ‘the 27 club’, the laced Oxycodone he took ended his life prematurely at 26.
According to the autopsy report, Miller died from a fatal combination of alcohol, cocaine and fentanyl which was deemed an accident by investigators. In Miller’s case there can often be a very confusing grey area; after all Miller wasn’t supplied with the drugs he thought he was purchasing. Miller believed he was purchasing Oxycodone, an opioid, but in reality he was sold fentanyl, a drug 80-100 times stronger than Heroin.
According to the Gulfport Police Department, oxycodone tablets are often entirely counterfeited and only contain fentanyl meaning the recipient is more likely to accidentally overdose. The reason dealers put fentanyl in the drugs is because it is often cheaper than heroin, easier to smuggle and the increased strength means the recipient is unlikely to notice that the drugs have been tampered with.
Laced drugs, unfortunately, are worryingly common. Marijuana is sometimes laced with substances like glass, laundry detergent and embalming fluid in order to increase the weight of the product, thus making more profit without regard for the recipient’s health. In extreme cases, marijuana may be laced with stronger drugs like heroin in order to get the buyer addicted and manipulate them into buyer stronger drugs, again increasing their profits. Recently, in a bid to reduce overdosing at festivals, drug-testing kits were provided, however, not enough people are making use of facilities like these largely due to the social stigma and fear of legal consequences.
Another method of reducing overdose deaths is safe-injection sites with currently around 170 operating worldwide. These facilities are often run by medically trained volunteers who provide services like clean needles and Naloxone which can help reverse the effects of an overdose. Critics of these facilities argue that by making drugs safer, it no longer gives people a reason to quit. Despite backlash, the positives of facilities like these seem to far outweigh the negatives. For example, by providing clean needles, the percentage of people sharing needles has been reduced from 37% to just 2% preventing the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis. The main evidence to support these facilities is the fact that there are 88 fewer overdose deaths per 100,000 people (1 overdose death prevented per 1137 users) in areas where safe-injection sites are provided. People are going to take drugs whether safe injection sites exist or not so surely it is in the best interest of society to ensure that its members remain safe and can access immediate medical care, particularly as the cost of running these facilities actually saved Vancouver $6m in medical costs. My hope is that in the near future we will see more of these safe-injection sites as, although I understand the concerns, I believe the benefits far outweigh the risks.
As a society we have also seen a shift in attitudes to drugs in terms of its legalisation. While some oppose legalisation, again out of fear that it will increase drug use, 68% of millennials agree with legalising marijuana. Not only can marijuana have significant health benefits for people dealing with long term pain but its legalisation should hopefully reduce the number of cases of drug lacing as it means the market can be better regulated. The UK drug trade is estimated to be worth about £11 billion, therefore if drugs were legalised, some of this money could hopefully benefit the community rather than making drug tycoons immensely wealthy, as in the case of Pablo Escobar who had an estimated £30 billion net worth.
Mac Miller’s death was an immense loss, but it wasn’t an anomaly. Music legend Prince died under similar circumstances just over a year prior, again caused by fentanyl. These tragedies should serve as a wake-up call that something drastic needs to change in order to make drugs safer, whether that is through safe-injection sites, its legalisation or another means. As a society, I believe we have a duty to help one another, whether we agree with what they’re doing or not, and yet we are continuing to fail to do so which simply isn’t good enough.