Kim Kizyma
Graphic Designer + Creative Technologist

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Blog Posts and Ideas by Kim Kizyma

A fentanyl rant

Rapper Mac Miller’s September death was the result of an accidental overdose, according to a toxicology reportreleased by the L.A. County Coroners Office. Fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol were found in Miller’s system. The combination of the drugs — an autopsy obtained by Rolling Stone describes the use as “recreational” — caused the rapper’s death.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 30 times more powerful than heroin. It’s one of the deadliest drugs associated with the ongoing opioid crisis, and the leading cause of accidental overdose deaths, surpassing heroin. In the past few years alone, fentanyl has killed a number of high profile musicians including Prince, Tom Petty and Lil Peep, who all died under similar circumstances to Miller.

Miller struggled with substance abuse throughout his life and had spoken openly about it in the past. His early career was marked by a dependence on lean — a mixture of promethazine and codeine — though he was able to kick the habit for a time. Miller went through bouts of sobriety, but had started drinking again this year, leading to a DUI arrest this May. According to the autopsy, a bottle of alcohol, a bottle of prescription pills and a “white, powdery substance” were all found in Miller’s home after his death.

Throughout his career, Miller was frank in his assessment of his own struggles with his addictive tendencies, bringing them up in his music and in interviews. He brought to his music, and his life, a keen sense of his own mortality. “Only so much time left in this crazy world,” read one of his tattoos, according to the autopsy report.

Miller’s death in September came at the critical apex of his career — his latest album, Swimming, was widely considered to be his best, and an indication that he had far more to offer as an artist. Last week, a tribute concert was held in his honor, benefitting the newly founded Mac Miller Circles Fund, a charity established in his name. Travis Scott, Chance The Rapper, SZA and more performed at the show, and many of Miller’s friends and collaborators weighed in with what made him a talented artist.

It’s so sad to hear of Mac’s overdose which took his life, but no one is really surprised since he’s been so open about his issues with addiction and drug use. It’s just sad cause it’s another person who was so talented yet so disturbed. I feel the same about Lil Peep. His life was also taken from him when he took a Xanax laced with Fentanyl.

The combination is killing people: In New York City, for example, 37 percent of cocaine-related overdose deaths reported in 2016 involved fentanyl. That year, its northern neighbor, Connecticut, recorded 143 overdose fatalitieswhere fentanyl and cocaine were present — in 2015, there were only 42. Just last month, four people died as a result of fentanyl-laced cocaine in San Diego, California.

“Part of the challenge is just how potent fentanyl is that even a small amount, particularly in someone who doesn’t regularly use opioids, can be so deadly,” Dr. Sarah Wakeman, an addiction medicine physician based in Massachusetts, tells Rolling Stone.

An eye-opening JAMA Psychiatry study published in May revealed a dramatic increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, primarily street fentanyl. In 2010, there were around 3,000 such fatalities, but in 2016, that number jumped to more than 19,000. More surprisingly, cocaine was involved in about 22 percent of those overdose deaths, according to the study’s findings.

“People using cocaine my not have any experience in using opioids, so they have no personal tolerance to the effects,” study co-author Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute, tells Rolling Stone. “And we know that people who are drug naive are much more likely to have an overdose because their body hasn’t adjusted and adapted to it.”

I saw a witty, yet sad tweet this morning that caught my attention. It was something about “you think your plugs are better than Mac f****** Miller’s? Stop doing drugs.” It’s true. If Mac Miller couldn’t get clean drugs, you’re not going to be the exception. Nothing is safe.

Of course drug use shouldn’t be encouraged but it also can’t be ignored, especially in today’s day and age. The glamorization of drug use is the troubling part of it all. The fact that we stop for a day and get sad that Mac Miller overdosed and died, then we go back to our lives, listen to music, and find out another artist followed suit. We don’t learn. We listen with one ear and it goes almost immediately out of the other.

This is also a very similar issue that we have with gun violence and mass shootings in America. We so often haven’t done anything to actually stop them, yet we are so shocked and in disbelief when the next one tragically occurs on our own turf. It makes no sense, but it’s become our reality.

We become invested in these high profile stories or celebrated cases of terrible things. It’s like we are living vicariously through our screens, whichever one is closest to our eyes, but not actually consuming or comprehending what’s repeatedly going on before us. We are a nation of instant everything. We multi-task everything. We are expected to work hard and move fast, but when can we slow down and really uncover what’s going on around us? What could happen to any of us in the future?

The ironic thing is that I am posting this on election day. I saw on the news this morning that there were already twice as many early voters for this midterm election as in previous years. That made me smile. We can change, it’s just we have to stick with it.

kk