While we are still not sure exactly what killed Amy Winehouse, many people are speculating that it had something to do with her admitted drug and alcohol abuse. As we blogged a few weeks ago, Winehouse was booed off the stage in her last concert. Now she may be among what some call the “27 Club”—famous people who died at the age of 27 from drug and alcohol abuse, including Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, all major music heroes of their times. Coincidence?
Not really. As their fame and wealth increased, so did their access to drugs and so maybe, too, their belief that they were outside the rules, invincible. But that wasn’t true. By the time they were in their mid-twenties it is likely their bodies started to rebel, screaming enough is enough!
Going to rehab is a smart move, even if it takes several tries. Rehab is hard. It calls for major changes in an addicted person’s life beyond stopping drug use—like a change of friendships (maybe even of a best friend or partner), not to mention a change of lifestyle and even where you live. When you’re “on top,” too much change might be harder to accept.
Still, the alternative is worse—just ask the people who loved Amy Winehouse. She was a great talent who could really have moved the world. To quote one of our 2010 GRAMMY winners from their video "Drug Free State of Mind," "…we all shootin’ stars basically waitin’ to be seen…"
What is your talent that is waiting to be seen? Make a plan not to waste it!
Since the death of Michael Jackson in 2009, “propofol” has been mentioned often in the news. The substance was found to be the cause of his death and was the center of the highly publicized trial of his doctor.
So, it’s no surprise there is a lot of curiosity about propofol. NIDA received questions about it during last year’s Drug Facts Chat Day.
During Chat Day, Cam from California asked about the basics—
Is propofol a drug?
Yes. Propofol is a common type of anesthetic—a drug that doctors use to “put people to sleep” for surgery. It is given to patients through an “intravenous drip,” (called an “IV” for short) that goes through a special needle into a patient’s vein, so the medicine goes directly into the bloodstream.
Doctors who give patients propofol are generally known as “anesthesiologists” and have special training. These experts set up the IV, make sure the patient is “sleeping” comfortably, and then carefully monitor vital signs (like heart rate, breathing, etc.) while the patient has surgery.
Doctors like using propofol because it leaves the body very quickly, which allows the patient to wake up after surgery more rapidly, without bad side effects. Propofol can be a useful drug when it’s given by people who are properly trained. But like many prescription drugs, it can be very harmful if used inappropriately. Propofol should be given only in a hospital setting where the patient can be closely monitored.
A Lost Legend
Michael Jackson died of acute propofol intoxication. Additional drugs found in Michael’s system were the depressants midazolam and diazepam, the painkiller Lidocaine, and the stimulant ephedrine. His doctor, Conrad Murray, was convicted of causing the singer’s death by giving Michael the propofol that caused him to stop breathing. By helping Michael abuse drugs—even if it was to “help him sleep”—he contributed to the loss of a legend. Michael’s untimely death was mourned by millions of people.
One of the things I love most about music is its ability to transform tragedy into hope, as anyone who has listened obsessively to a "breakup song" knows. But, as artists like Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Joan Baez, and countless others have shown, songs can do more than comfort. They can change who we are as a culture and inspire us to work together to make the world a better place.
So, when I first met with a group of advanced music production students at the Media Arts Collaborative Charter School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I knew I wanted to do more than just help the teens make an album of original music. I also wanted to help them make a difference in their community—to tap into the transformative power of music to heal, to comfort, and to open a window of hope.
A Life Lost to Addiction
The high school class of eight fledgling producers, songwriters, rappers, and musicians were all highly enthusiastic about the project. When considering issues to address, they reflected on the senseless 2010 death of a schoolmate, 16-year-old Haley Paternoster, of a heroin overdose. It turned out almost all of us had seen someone—a friend, a family member—destroyed by addiction, whether from heroin, prescription drugs like OxyContin, or alcohol. Haley’s death offered us a tragic common bond.
The class decided to make an album of original hip-hop music focused on addiction, dedicated to Haley's memory. Her father, Steve Paternoster, a local restaurateur, talk show host, and philanthropist, talked to our class several times. His words were raw, real, and deeply moving. Other students, also touched by addiction, began sharing personal stories, allowing us to begin working through our losses and permitting us to dive in, fully aware and sensitive to how addiction can wreck lives.
Haley, We Miss You
It took just 2 weeks to complete the title track, "Haley, We Miss You." We pushed forward. It was very important to the students that we keep the message real, unlike many other antidrug education programs they had experienced in the school system. We wanted an album to be thoughtful and hard hitting while keeping in mind the many complexities surrounding the issue.
The students composed songs about the power of music, the apparent contradictions of the "war on drugs," and the hardships of growing up in the rougher parts of our hometown. They wrote about the dangers of prescription painkillers and how advertisers try to manipulate youth to buy their products. We looked at addiction as part of the larger context of the mental and emotional health of our community.
Jennifer Weiss of the Albuquerque Heroin Awareness Committee, whose son Cameron had overdosed after a long struggle with heroin addiction, approached us. Cameron was a poet and rapper who, before he died, had composed and partially recorded a song about his struggle, "A One Way Track To Hell." It was a haunting and powerful work that unknowingly foreshadowed Cameron’s death; we accepted the challenge of completing the backing music and remixing the song to include in the album.
A CD for Every 8th Grader in Albuquerque
The album was just the first step. Our ultimate goal: to produce a CD for every 8th grader in Albuquerque. Prevention experts suggest that 8th graders are at the highest risk for experimenting with opioid painkillers, usually in the form of OxyContin, which was the case for Haley before switching to heroin. We felt the best approach was to try to reach out to kids at risk of using before they start.
Our label, "SoundOven," was created both as a musical identity and as the name for the organization we wanted to launch using music and film as media for positive social change. We knew we needed a budget for CD duplication, printing costs, and a music video. So, we started a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo asking for help. The fundraising appeal has concluded, but you can still check out our pitch video.
We received an overwhelming response: in 90 days, we had raised more than $10,000. Haley’s dad Steve was personally very generous, but we also got a big helping hand when the Albuquerque Journal did a front-page story on our campaign, subsequently picked up in local TV newscasts. In the end, more than 100 people from 5 countries contributed to our cause.
The Mission Continues
I could not be prouder of my students, Floyd Moya, Robert Serrano, Falon Cole, Ruben Valenzuela, Caelan Harris, Issac Leeman, Alex Wilson, Quinlan Spears, and Alex Torres. Their creativity, passion, and dedication makes me excited to get up every morning to do this work.
But the work is not yet done. We now have 2,000 copies of the finished CD to place into the hands of youth at risk for opioid addiction—which could really be anyone. We are coordinating with the heroin awareness committee and Albuquerque Public Schools substance abuse counselors, the culmination of our yearlong effort.
Blake Minnerly is a musician, filmmaker, and educator whose passion is helping young people make meaningful, professional media projects that advocate for positive social change in their communities. Besides his work at the Media Arts Collaborative Charter School, he plays in several bands and does freelance soundtrack composition, sound design, and editing. He is currently in the process of incorporating SoundOven as an independent nonprofit to continue and expand the project started in his advanced music production class.
- The Albuquerque film office for securing locations and permits from the city at no cost
- The Film Tech program at the Community College of New Mexico for raising our production values exponentially with their outstanding equipment and talented students
- The Mount Olive Baptist Church for generously lending their facility and the talented voices of their choir
This past weekend, Hollywood was shocked by news of “Glee” star Cory Monteith’s unexpected death. He was only 31 years old.
Back in April, SBB talked about Cory returning to rehab to deal with drug abuse issues that plagued him off and on since his teen years. Unfortunately, autopsy results showed that Cory died of a heroin and alcohol overdose, highlighting in the most tragic way how drug addiction often follows a cycle of recovery and relapse.
From the accounts of people who knew and worked with Cory, he sounds like he was a really great person—a loyal friend and devoted actor. It goes to show that drug addiction doesn’t just happen to “bad” people like some may believe. All types of people—rich and poor, man and woman, old and young—are equally at risk to be hurt if they start using drugs.
The Danger of Relapse
Relapse happens when a person who was addicted to drugs stops taking them for a while and eventually starts up again. Often, people who are recently out of rehab overdose more easily if they relapse because being off the drug for a while lowers their tolerance. They may take the same dose they were accustomed to before rehab and their bodies can’t handle it.
Heroin is especially dangerous. Not only is heroin a strong drug, but every dose a person buys may be a different purity, or strength. So even if a person takes the same amount of heroin, it might be so strong that he or she overdoses.
The fact that Cory had both heroin and alcohol in his system when he died highlights another important fact: Mixing substances is never a good idea. Heroin and alcohol both slow down breathing and heart rate, making the mix particularly hazardous.
A person who is overdosing can be saved if they get medical care in time, since symptoms of overdose are clear—shallow breathing, weak pulse, and loss of consciousness, for example. But if a person is alone at the time, as Cory was, overdose can result in death.
Cory Monteith was a talented actor and singer with millions of young fans. Now is the time for teens to ask questions about drug addiction and overdose—so let us know in comments if you have any and we’ll be happy to answer them.
Earlier this summer, we reported that 21% of music festival goers admitted to using illegal drugs at a concert. Unfortunately, the tragic incident in New York resulted in multiple overdoses and forced the mayor of Randall's Island to cancel the last day of the concert.
Though Molly has been connected to electronic and dance music for years, it has recently gained popularity in mainstream music because of mentions by Kanye West, Madonna, and most recently, Miley Cyrus.
MDMA is a manmade stimulant that can dangerously raise your heart rate and blood pressure and even cause life-threatening dehydration—especially when combined with physical activity like dancing. Molly is a name for pure MDMA that comes in powder or crystal form. However, powder sold as “Molly” often is not pure. It is sometimes mixed with other drugs that can make an overdose more likely. Sometimes, it might not contain any MDMA at all.
People who buy and use drugs at music festivals have no way of knowing what they are really getting—or how it will affect them. It is important not to trust anyone trying to get you to take a drug. Just let music be your natural high.