The death of Prince on April 21st shocked millions of fans around the world, and left many in mourning over his sudden loss, including many in the music industry. In a candid interview with People magazine, Aerosmith frontman and rock legend Steven Tyler talks addiction and Prince’s death.
“I’ve certainly had my moments of crying about him,” Tyler said in the People interview. “He was a saint. He was a musician and he spoke my language so it’s a little harder to take.” Still, says Tyler, “I would love to just tell you [I’m crying because] we’re going to miss him and his music, but I think it’s deeper than that.”
As of the publication of this post, the exact cause of Prince’s death remains unknown. But there is much speculation that Prince was struggling with an addiction to opiates and that an opiate overdose may have been the cause of his death. Steven Tyler has had his own well-publicized battle with addiction, and told People, “As a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, I get that,” he says. “In the 80s I fell to my knees with my addictions.”
“I know how it is being a celebrity and everybody around turns a blind eye,” Tyler said. “But I was fortunate enough to have someone who said, ‘You’re going to Betty Ford, again.'” he says, referring to his last rehab stay six years ago.
Lately there has been a huge and growing amount of criticism of the pharmaceutical industry and physicians because of the high numbers of opiate prescriptions. The Centers for Disease Control stated recently “We now know that overdoses from prescription opioid pain relievers are a driving factor in the 15-year increase in opioid overdose deaths. Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report.”
The Aerosmith singer and former American Idol judge echoed the current sentiments of many, “Doctors are the new pushers,” he said. “All of America isn’t strung out on street drugs, they’re strung out on prescribed drugs.”
Tyler, who once said he “snorted half of Peru” (meaning cocaine, of course), loves being clean and sober and offered words of encouragement to anyone struggling with addiction. “If I can do it, anyone can,” said Tyler. “There are 12-step programs out there that save people’s lives day after day, even if it’s a minute at a time and someone’s feeling like they want to use.” Trying to stop using opiates alone is difficult and dangerous, and anyone who thinks they may have a problem with opiates should seek professional opiate addiction treatment.
Although Tyler says he’s holding on to hope that the singer didn’t die of “the same disease I have”, he’s still searching for a silver lining in this tragedy. If Prince did die from a drug overdose, he says there is a message for us. “Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, they all died so I could live,” said Tyler of some of his musical idols, whose deaths helped him to realize he was heading down the same path. “That’s the only way to stop me from crying is to say, okay, maybe Prince died so others could live.”