President Barack Obama and Seattle-based rapper Macklemore appear in a new video about opioid abuse and addiction, released on May 14th as one of the president’s weekly addresses. Macklemore is best-known for his 2013 hit Thrift Shop. Macklemore himself has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, having been arrested when he was 15 years old for drug-related charges.
The four and a half minute address is released in the context of the ongoing heroin epidemic occurring nationwide. In the video, Obama reveals some shocking statistics: drug overdoses kill more people each year than traffic accidents. Opioid deaths in the United States have tripled since the year 2000. Obama says that 44% of Americans know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers.
Addiction doesn’t always start in some dark alley — it often starts in a medicine cabinet ” –President Barack Obama
Macklemore speaks about the nature of addiction as a disease and its widespread influence over the country. “Addiction is like any other disease. It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care what color you are, whether you’re a guy or a girl, rich or poor, whether you live in the Inner City, a suburb or rural America. This doesn’t just happen to other people’s kids or in some other neighborhood, it can happen to any of us.”
Just talking about it isn’t enough, says Obama. Obama then outlines various political measures he has instituted across the country, such as making coverage for alcohol and drug treatment programs a requirement for health insurance programs through the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplace.
One somewhat surprising revelation from the video is that Macklemore reveals that he was able to recover through 12-step programs. Macklemore says that recovery saved his life, and that people in Washington need to fund treatment programs, and that people need to know how to find them.
I know recovery isn’t easy or quick. But along with a 12-step program, treatment has saved my life. -Macklemore
Obama says that we all need to do more to fight the opioid addiction epidemic. He mentions a few bills being discussed and passed by Congress, and also says that doctors need more training to be aware of the consequences of prescribing pain medication. This advice follows national discussion that doctors are at the forefront of the battle against opioid drug abuse, because there is some evidence that many opioid addicts started with prescribed pain medication before moving onto harder, cheaper heroin and illicit fentanyl available on the streets. It also follows the news of the death of musician Prince, whose dead body was found with prescribed painkillers in his possession just a few weeks ago.
Macklemore also tackles the stigma attached with drug addiction. “Shame and the stigma associated with the disease keeps too many people from seeking the help that they actually need,” Macklemore explains. This is unfortunately true. Society’s views toward addicts paint them as degenerate scum only interested in their own self-pleasure. If you have struggled with addiction, chances are you probably don’t discuss your troubles casually at work or school, the same way one might with other diseases such as diabetes or seasonal allergies.
“We have to tell people that need help that it’s okay to ask for it,” Macklemore says. Obama adds that increasing national conversation on addiction will help millions of Americans recover, and result in fewer preventable deaths and fewer broken families.
This informational video will hopefully help people struggling with addiction to seek help. Opioid overdose deaths are at all-time highs in the United States, and have been increasing every year. Open discussion on the disease of addiction can only help others. Equally important is the erosion of the stigma attached to the disease. Addiction is a disease, not a choice. Never be afraid to ask for help.