“We love incorporating Macklemore’s music into our programming at the Orchard. He’s such an awesome example of someone who is in recovery and using his music to change the world.” – Cassandra Steiner, Director of Communications at Orchard Recovery Center

When Macklemore dropped the track “Drug Dealer” (ft. Ariana DeBoo), he called out ‘big pharma’ (multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies) and shined a light on the dark politics of America’s opioid addiction.

Prescription Painkillers to Heroin

Opioid addiction is at critical levels across North America – whether from a doctor or from the streets, these drugs aren’t coming cheap. “God damn they’re making a killing,” he raps after listing off a handful of names whose painkiller-related deaths were in the public eye. This double-entendre speaks to the hundreds of thousands that have died and the billions of dollars that have been made.

In this haunting song, Macklemore tackles questions of how so many have come to be addicted to painkillers, and why so many are dying of drug overdoses. He specifically names Purdue right before the hook of the song: “My drug dealer was a doctor… Had the plug from big pharma… He said that he could heal me, but it only gave me problems…”

What’s the story there?

Of course, a big part of recovery is taking stock of yourself and not blaming others – but there is no denying that Purdue Pharma spent hundreds of millions of dollars to intentionally mis-market the safety of their drugs and denied their addictive qualities. Though Purdue paid a $634.5 million fine for their ‘misbranding’ that OxyContin was not addictive, the company has made over $35 billion in sales since it was first introduced. The fine was a mild slap on the wrist, all things considered. Research has shown widespread overprescribing of opioids for routine medical conditions got many people hooked on painkillers – which led directly to a heroin addiction when their prescriptions ran out.

How did that happen? Heroin is an opioid too.

Synthetic opioids trigger a huge release of dopamine in your brain – a chemical that helps your body recognize things it needs for survival. Opioid use actually alters your brain chemistry to make you think you need the drug to survive, which is why addicts seem like they’ll do anything to get more. Mix that with the fact that opioid users very quickly build up a tolerance to their drug of choice, and well… “When morphine and heroin is more of your budget, I said I’d never use a needle, but sure…” An opioid is an opioid – so whether it’s heroin or a pharmaceutical like Oxycontin or fentanyl, death by accidental overdose is increasing by thousands every year.

“My drug dealer was a doctor… Had the plug from big pharma… He said that he could heal me, but it only gave me problems…”

The good news is…

Recovery is possible. With the right treatment, the brain can slowly stop seeing opioids as something needed for survival. Macklemore ends the song with the Serenity Prayer – a staple in 12-step meetings. (“So God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.”) Thank you Macklemore, for your Courage to change the things you can.

Written by Cassandra Steiner, Director of Communications at Orchard Recovery Center