Opioids like ‘skinny’ permeate hip-hop culture, but dangers are downplayed


Nykerrius Williams knows the close relationship between hip-hop and opioid use. Williams, 27, a freelance rapper from Gibsland, La. Named Young Nyke, first took oxycodone pills at the age of 16 and continued to abuse the pills, as well as Lortabs, Xanax and Codeine Cough. syrups, until recently. For him, that’s part of the business.

“If you don’t rap about not using drugs, or if you sell drugs here on the streets,” he said of his chosen profession, “you don’t don’t – like, nobody wanna hear what you’re talking about. “

This snapshot of Williams’ hip-hop life doesn’t seem all that different from musicians of other genres for whom the mixture of drugs and addiction is a recurring storyline, claiming the lives of artists like Janis Joplin, who was found dead of ‘a heroine. overdose in 1970, and rapper DMX, who died last month.

But drug use in the hip-hop community has a growing presence that is closely linked to music – and with dire consequences. The catchy lyrics suggest that opioid abuse is an integral part of fame and wealth, just a normal and harmless part of this life.

Community hard drug abuse coverage generally focuses on the tragedy surrounding some popular rappers rather than the lyrics and culture they create. And while public health experts go to great lengths, for example, to criticize and reduce the promotion of vaping to young people, little attention is paid to the dangerous effects of hip-hop on vulnerable listeners by normalizing percocets. or by drinking cough syrup.

From big cities like Los Angeles to rural towns like Gibsland – 878 people – opioid abuse among some hopeful young listeners is all about emulating the enviable image of their favorite rap star. For others, it’s not just about the high life. It’s self-medication.

“Let’s talk about the pain,” said Mikiel Muhammad, 38, aka King Kong Gotcha, member of the rap trio The opioid era in Virginia. “The pain is so deep. They don’t have money to go see a psychiatrist, but they have money to go get a Perc-10. They got $ 10, $ 15 for that, ”Gotcha said, referring to the market value of a 10-milligram Percocet tablet.

According to a February KFF Report, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts have increased in young adults over the past year.

Artists like Young Nyke sometimes face neighborhood and family violence, as well as a general lack of opportunities and resources in their communities – circumstances magnified by the covid pandemic. The poetic words detailing the rapper’s experience offers some support. But these sentences can also be heavy.

It’s not just drug use that’s worrying, said Naa-Solo Tettey, associate professor of public health at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. Often times, these songs promote opioid use while engaging in high-risk activities like unprotected sex or speeding and, even though she is a fan of hip-hop, “from the point of view. From a public health perspective, it’s just dangerous, ”she said.

This toxicity affects populations already in the grip of perpetual cycles of poverty, poor health and lowered life expectancy. It takes “culturally relevant interventions” to educate and raise awareness of hip-hop music, which Tettey research categorized as being mainly made up of young people from “vulnerable and socially disadvantaged” groups.

It’s time to take a hard look at how opioid abuse permeates hip-hop lyrics, creating a gateway for young black adults into America’s opioid epidemic, Tettey said.

In 2017, this epidemic was declared a national public health emergency, with more than 47,000 opioid-related overdose deaths reported. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say fatal drug overdoses nationwide increased by about 20% during the covid pandemic, killing more than 83,000 people in 2020. In this grim statistic, Substance Abuses and Mental Health Services Administration found inequalities.

According to a 2020 report from the Office of Behavioral Equity in Health and the SAMHSA of the Department of Health and Human Services, attention to this crisis has focused more on white communities in the suburbs and in the countryside, even though black communities are similar dramatic increases in opioid abuse and death. The report also found that synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, more seriously affect opioid-related death rates in blacks than other populations.

A 2020 SAGE journal search paper found a sharp increase in prescription opioid overdose deaths among blacks. The document also found that the death rate had nearly tripled between 1999 and 2017. In February 2018, the US surgeon general tweeted a warning that opioid abuse trends “may be a precursor to even more opioid overdose deaths in the black community in the years to come.”

“The music industry, all it does is perpetuate everything that goes on the outside,” said Jarrell Gilliard, 40, explaining the presence of pharmaceutical drugs that he encountered and how this is reflected in popular lyrics. “How they pump these pills and all these prescribed drugs into the streets.” Once the streets have had them… ”said Gilliard, whose hip-hop pseudonym is Grunge Gallardo.

Grunge is also a member of The Opioid Era, named because of their crude, raw images and lyrics. Songs such as “Suboxones”, “Sackler Oath” and “Overdose”, which opens with a haunting 911 recording of a woman frantically begging for help with a, stark contrast to the pill tunes of traditional hip-hop.

“I think that’s the most dangerous thing about it,” said Richard Buskey, 42, who completes The Opioid Era trio as Ambassador Rick. “It’s a disconnect between young people and them who realize that they are in the same category as what they would consider to be a drug addict or a demon.

Tettey said that was in part because mainstream performers represent a lifestyle that many young adults want for themselves, which can translate into modeling behaviors like opioid abuse.

Feel the “ skinny ”

Patrick Williams, 26, indie rapper from Orange, Texas, with the stage name PatvFoo, is no stranger to addiction.

He was 21 when he first sipped.thin– a prescription cough syrup blend drink containing the antihistamine promethazine and opioid codeine with soda, Jolly Rancher candy and ice, served in Styrofoam lined cups. “It’s a variety of colors that you have,” PatvFoo said, referring to the different formulations of codeine cough syrups. The purple syrup is the most powerful. PatvFoo discovered lean through the Texas rap scene and artists like DJ screws then became a user.

“At first there is a calming effect,” said Stevie Jones, 23, also known as Prophet J, a freelance rapper from Louisville, Kentucky. He has similar memories of his first misuse of codeine syrups. He and his friends doused a bit of it on a blunt – the slang term for a hollowed-out cigar filled with a pot. “It just makes it burn slower – like, make you a little higher, I guess,” Prophet J mentionned.

Things can quickly take a turn for the worse. Although lean is one of the weakest opioids, experts say it is very addicting, and often in a short time. “The day you do without it, you have severe stomach cramps. You feel like you have to throw up all the time. You are sweating. It’s like you have a bad flu, ”PatvFoo said.

That flu-like feeling is opioid withdrawal, said Dr. Edwin C. Chapman, a Howard University College of Medicine alumnus who practiced internal medicine and addiction medicine in Washington, DC, for more than 40 years. Symptoms range from runny nose and eyes to diarrhea and can usually be stopped with a sip of cough syrup or lean, he said.

And there is a harsh reality there. Whether it’s Percocet or Skinny pills, “everything is in the same class as heroin and fentanyl,” Chapman said.

But learning that opioid use is being promoted in popular music came as a revelation to Chapman. “It’s not the music that I listened to,” said the 75-year-old doctor. The medical community, he said, has focused on reducing the over-prescribing of pain medication. “But we never spoke … of the fact that it was openly announced to young people through music or the media.”

Indeed, the abuse of lean, also known as “violet drank“and”sizzleManaged to evade the regulatory spotlight while remaining popular and recognizable – so much so that vaping companies distributed e-liquids containing nicotine resembling the drink and even mimicked the slang term “double cup.” In their labeling. These products triggered a 2019 Food and Drug Administration crackdown on vaping juices. The drugs themselves, however, continue to hit the streets, as do the lyrics of hip-hop.

And it changed the market, moving it beyond the street options of heroin and opioids, said hip-hop artist Buskey. “We live in a time when they take it out of the medicine cabinet.”

Phillip Coleman, 34, rapper in Rochester, New York, who bears the name GodclouD, started using at the age of 15 after receiving Percocet 5 milligram tablets after wisdom tooth extraction. This set him on the path to abuse of prescription painkillers which led to cocaine and then to heroin addiction which ultimately led him to jail.

Fortunately, Coleman was able to overcome his addictions in rehab and refocus on family and music. He warns that people who buy Percocet or other prescription pills on the street have no way of knowing if they are legitimate or “just in a rush for fentanyl.” He said the payoff for opioid addiction is not the lifestyle of the rich and famous that you see portrayed by some hip-hop artists. “You can’t trade in your empty bags like box tops and get, like, a bike or whatever. Like, you don’t have a hat; you don’t have any fentanyl booty, ”he chuckled. “Like, you just die.”

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