By Martha Ross
Original Source: mercurynews.com
Authorities in Tucson, Arizona, are investigating the death of Lil Peep, a young rapper known for championing a unique blend of hip-hop and “emo” lyricism.
A primary issue is whether Lip Peep, 21, died of a drug overdose Wednesday. Tuscon police say they found paraphernalia on his tour bus suggesting he had taken the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. Moreover, Lil Peep posted a video to his Instagram account several hours before his death which shows him dropping “bars,” or tablets, of Xanax into his mouth, the Guardian said. Fans have dubbed the Instagram post his “death video.”
Both the Los Angeles Times and The Guardian report that Xanax is popular among some rappers who use it as a party drug. In fact, Guardian writer Ben Beaumont-Thomas says that Xanax is “the most fashionable drug” in 2017’s hip-hop scene.
If it turns out that Xanax was a factor in the death of Lil Peep, born Gustav Ahr, that would serve as a grim reminder of the prescription drug’s prevalent use and abuse, not just in hip-hop but in society at large.
It would also make him the second prominent music artist in the past year who has died while taking this kind of anti-anxiety medication, which belongs in a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, or benzos for short.
Shortly after Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell died by suicide on May 18, his family said they suspected his death could also be attributed to the fact that he was taking Ativan, the brand name for Lorazepam, another benzodiazepine.
Cornell’s widow Vicky Cornell said the singer, 52, had reported taking “an extra Ativan or two” shortly before he was found hanging in his hotel room in Detroit following a concert. The final toxicology tests confirmed that Ativan was one of several drugs found in Cornell’s system.
The presence of Ativan and the other drugs in Cornell’s body led his family to conclude that the grunge rock icon, a recovering addict, had broken his sobriety. The drugs could have contributed to “an altered state of mind” that led him to take his own life, the family said in a statement.
While coroner’s officials didn’t weigh in on whether Ativan could be blamed in Cornell’s death, the fact that he was taking a benzodiazepine raised questions about the widespread use of such drugs.
In addition to anxiety, benzodiazepines are used to treat drug withdrawal, agoraphobia and seizure disorders, among other things.
But the drugs also come with serious side effects, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. These side effects include worsening depression, unusual mood or behavior and suicidal thoughts.
Benzodiazepines, which are mostly intended for short-term use, also come with a risk of dependance and addiction. The addiction and recovery website The Fix puts dependance on benzos in more dire terms, describing addiction to drugs in this class as particularly grueling and potentially lethal.
“When it comes to prescription drugs that are not only able to kill you but can drag out the final reckoning for years on end, with worsening misery at every step of the way, it is hard to top the benzodiazepines,” writer Christopher Byron said in the 2011 post, which is headlined “Is this the world’s deadliest pill?”
Beside being “fashionable” among rappers, The Guardian points out that the benzodiazepine Xanax in particular underpins an entire subgenre of rap, sometimes dubbed “SoundCloud rap.”
This ennui-infused subgenre is characterized by “constant references to depression and prescription painkillers,” the Guardian said. Lil Peep even rapped about using Xanax: “I hear voices in my head, they tellin’ me to call it quits / I found some Xanax in my bed, I took that shit, went back to sleep.”
It could be that Lil Peep’s ennui went wider than his reliance on Xanax, but “one of the most chilling aspects to (his) death is that his cries for help were so public,” wrote Beaumont-Thomas.
Sadly, Lil Peep also wrote on his Instagram a few hours before he died, “I need help but not when I have my pills but that’s temporary one day maybe I won’t die young and I’ll be happy?”
His girlfriend, social media star Arzaylea Rodriguez, mourned his death with an Instagram post, showing them in what appear to be happier times.
“I love you monkey,” she wrote Thursday. “I feel you here. You are in everything. I just wanna be with you again. Nothing will ever be the same. I will never be the same. I’m trying everything to be strong for you but it’s so hard I don’t wanna be here without you. The pain is heavy in my soul. You are heavy in my soul.”
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