In a new op-ed for Time, as part of their “Opioid Diaries” project, longtime Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea opened up about his past struggles with addiction and America’s horrific opiate epidemic. As drug overdoses balloon—in 2017, becoming the leading cause of death for American adults under 50—the prescription drug crisis remains an issue that’s drastically underserved, and Flea reminds that all doctors should place more of an emphasis on “follow-up, monitoring and a clear solution and path to rehabilitation if anyone becomes addicted.”
He chronicles his own struggles with addiction, being surrounded by drugs from birth, starting with weed when he was 11, and proceeding to “snort, shoot, pop, smoke, drop and dragon chase” through his teens and twenties. He cut them out entirely at age 30, after losing too many friends, but he still feels the allure from time to time:
“Temptation is a bitch though. All my life I’ve gone through periods of horrific anxiety: a tightness in my stomach that creeps up and squeezes my brain in an icy grip. My mind relentlessly whirring, I can’t eat or sleep, and I stare into a seemingly infinite void of despair, a bottomless pit of fear. Ouch. Man, drugs would fix all that in a flash.”
Flea also describes his path to recovery, how he “went through periods of suffering” without choosing to utilize rehab or a 12-step program. He also compares navigating the Hollywood underbelly for drugs, as he did growing up, to the ease with which anyone can score an opiate prescription from alleged medical professionals:
But what if your dealer was someone you’d trusted to keep you healthy since you were a kid? Many who are suffering today were introduced to drugs through their healthcare providers. When I was a kid, my doctor would give me a butterscotch candy after a checkup. Now, they’re handing out scripts. It’s hard to beat temptation when the person supplying you has a fancy job and credentials and it’s usually bad advice not to trust them.
He talks about how he was prescribed a two month supply of Oxycontin after breaking his arm a few years ago, and that the lack of guidance—from both our government, big pharma, and doctors—can lead anyone down the path. “Perfectly sane people become addicted to these medications and end up dead. Lawyers, plumbers, philosophers, celebrities — addiction doesn’t care who you are,” he writes.
Read Flea’s full op-ed here.