Macklemore Shows What Happens When Doctors Kill Us With Pills (Video)

Heads may recall that Macklemore and President Obama recently launched a joint effort to bring opioid abuse to the forefront of discussions about America’s most important health emergencies. Their efforts culminated in the MTV documentary Prescription For Change: Ending America’s Opioid Crisis, which premiered on October 11 and is now available for streaming on YouTube. Macklemore’s involvement in the film and the movement to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription pain pills and opioids like heroin is inspired in part by his own struggles with addiction, as he shared in a joint statement with Obama released in May.

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Macklemore channeled the same inspiration into his latest single, “Drug Dealer,” a gut-wrenching account of what happens when medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies collude in handing out prescriptions for opioid-based medications like Oxycontin, only to leave millions of patients addicted to the doctor-sanctioned narcotics and turning to cheaper alternatives like heroin. It’s a tragic cycle happening at a frighteningly fast clip, and entire towns in states including West Virginia and New Hampshire are being decimated by spikes in fatal overdoses. In fact, as discussed on the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver cites one West Virginia town in which 28 fatal heroin overdoses took place within the span of five hours.

Also cited by Oliver was the fact that, as of 2015, 2.6 million Americans have experienced addiction to pain relievers or heroin, with upwards of 30,000 related deaths happening every year. It’s a horrific side effect of a failed healthcare system, one which did not do its due diligence in examining the side effects of pain meds before funneling them into doctor offices across the country. Coupled with insidious marketing campaigns by big pharma, Americans were misled into believing that taking drugs like Oxy or Vicodin were not only the best option for pain related to surgery or cancer, but also for more mundane pain like toothaches and arthritis. And so, particularly in the 1980s through the early 2000s, prescriptions for such medications skyrocketed.

That toxic relationship between a doctor – whose job it is to protect and care for the best interests of her patients – and the patient – whose trust in her doctor is unquestioned – has led to literal millions of Americans now addicted to heroin because it’s much cheaper than pain medication. And it’s that toxic relationship that Macklemore examines in the new video for “Drug Dealer,” which documents the miserable process of opioid withdrawal by someone who never would have been in the miserable condition in the first place, had it not been for a fateful visit to his doctor.

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Scenes of a profusely sweating Macklemore on a dirty uncovered mattress, his eyes weary and bloodshot, paint a vivid picture of the physical undertaking that is opioid withdrawal in the Jason Koenig directed clip. Violent shaking and vomiting in a dark room can of course also be seen as metaphors for the emotional and psychological pain involved, but there does come a brighter day. The video’s final scene is one of embrace and support, and the emotion emanating from Macklemore is no doubt authentic.

As Oliver shared on last week’s episode, 75% of heroin addicts began as users of pain killers. That’s two thirds. Statistically speaking, two thirds of the people you know who were prescribed opioid-based painkillers after a car accident or a fall will go on to use heroin. Or perhaps it’s you. If you or someone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, Above the Influence has resources available.