Whether rapper Mac Miller died because he overdosed on drugs or from other causes, his death is still tragic.
Miller, 26, was a well-liked and well-respected—even by critics—musician from Pittsburgh. After a frat boy rap debut, he delivered four fine CDs and many mixtapes that were not afraid or shy about examining the dark corners of his life: depression, abuse of multiple substances, his past relationship with fellow singer Ariana Grande.
His death is suspected to be from a drug overdose, but there was no “obvious” evidence of it on the scene—though there is some evidence the scene was “swept clean” after his death but before the authorities got there to remove any such evidence—or from his autopsy (though authorities were still waiting for a toxicology report as of Sept. 11).
There is no shortage of suspected substances. Miller admitted to using legal substances—alcohol, tobacco—illegal use of legal substances—codeine cough syrup, often in a mixture with the sedative promethazine known as “purple drank”, sizzurp or lean—and use of illegal substances—marijuana, cocaine, PCP.
Miller also admitted that he hated being sober and that he didn’t intend to give up drugs entirely. At the same time, he told Rolling Stone in July that his drug use was in the past.
Miller didn’t aspire to live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse. He hated the idea of dying of an overdose, seeing it not as romantic but as pathetic. In an interview, he said, “You don’t go down in history because you overdosed. You just die.”
The loved ones of a drug addict also suffer. Sometimes they stick with the addict until either a cure or an overdose, but sometimes they just leave because they can’t take it anymore. Sometimes that departure is the spur for rehab, sometimes it triggers a final, fatal decline.
Ariana Grande has been pilloried by some for abandoning Miller—and then becoming engaged to comedian and Saturday Night Live featured player Pete Davidson a month later—but she has replied that the relationship was “toxic”, “hard”, and “scary”.
It doesn’t really matter whether Miller died of an overdose or not. Dead is dead, and substance abuse is no more a moral failing than diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or bipolar disorder. Some people are more genetically predisposed to addiction or mental illness than others.
Addiction is akin to a disease, as in mental. So is depression. That twofer almost certainly means that Miller had a dual diagnosis, two simultaneous diseases: depression and substance abuse.
What is more important—and about which I have seen nothing in the press coverage—is whether Miller ever sought substance abuse treatment or rehab for dual diagnosis disorder.
Going to a rehab center or an addiction-mental health specialist isn’t always necessary. Many substance abusers stop on their own. If you haven’t managed to stop on your own and you want to, then you probably need such professional help. If you have a dual diagnosis, however, you need all the help you can get.
Most mental illnesses don’t go away on their own. Psychotherapy, nutrition, maybe psychiatric drugs and a support group may all be needed. If the mental illness is not controlled, the substance abuse, even if treated, may return.
Miller was said to be generous with other artists and regular people alike. He was supportive with his ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande after one of her concerts became the site of a mass shooting. He probably would have organized an intervention for a friend who had a bad drug problem. How sad that no one could for him.