2019 American Music Awards

7 Takeaways From President Obama and Macklemore's Addiction Documentary

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Macklemore joined President Obama in his weekly address in May 2016 to talk about opioid addiction. 

Teaming up to bring attention to the exploding opioid epidemic, MTV Docs brought together Macklemore and President Obama for a documentary about what’s now known as the worst epidemic of addiction in American history. Airing Tuesday (Oct. 4) on MTV, Prescription for Change: Ending America's Opioid Crisis focuses on recovery methods, the history of opioids in America, and personal stories, including Macklemore’s own. 

Macklemore himself is no stranger to sharing his struggles with addiction. The rapper, who released his latest album This Unruly Mess I Made this past February, has consistently used his star power to shine a light on (and fight against) the stigma of addiction. By linking up with the recently rebooted documentary division of MTV, he filmed a chat with President Obama in front of the White House in honor of late September’s Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.

The hour-long doc was filmed in both Washington, D.C. and Macklemore's home state of Washington, and had its world premiere this past Monday at South by South Lawn, President Obama’s White House-hosted spin on music-and-art festivals. Here are seven revealing takeaways from Prescription for Change, ranging from stunning facts about America’s epidemic, to why President Obama agreed to take part in the first place.

#1. It’s clear that the America’s drug epidemic has been quickly spiraling out of control, with President Obama noting that “Incidents of people dying of overdoses is actually spiking. In 2014, we saw more people die of drug overdoses than car accidents, and the majority of those [deaths are from] opioids." 

#2. Macklemore, who explains that he first got sober in 2008, is frank about his own struggles with addiction. “I was on Percocet, and all of the sudden I’m doing them every day, to the point where I have this dependency,” he tells Obama of his addiction's origins. “I remember one day, the guy where I was getting it from didn’t have any more, but he said he had this other thing -- it’s called Oxycontin. Within a week, I was isolated in my room doing this drug, just to stay alive, in a way.” 

#3. Obama himself shared his own personal background when it comes to drug abuse. “When I was a teenager, I used drugs and drank and pretty much tried whatever was out there, but I was in Hawaii, and it was a pretty relaxed place,” he notes, adding “I was lucky I did not get addicted -- except to cigarettes, which took me a long time to kick.” 

#4. For Obama, participating in the documentary and tackling the drug epidemic is a personal quest. “I think that anyone who’s grown up in America has known people who’s struggled with it. I've had a lot of close friends who ended up going through the recovery process.” Later, Obama stressed: “I wanted to send a message that seeking help is the strong thing to do.” 

#5. When Macklemore finally did get help, he notes that there was a stigma that surrounded the whole ordeal. “When I got out of treatment, I didn’t know how to be honest about something I was shameful of,” he explains. “I didn’t know there was such a stigma around admitting that you have a problem, and addiction is real.”

#6. What finally worked for Macklemore? A rehab facility, which he is well aware that many others don’t get a chance to afford. “If it wasn’t for my parents being able to help me out with treatment, and afford this expensive rehab facility, then I wouldn’t be here right now talking to you.”

#7. However bleak things may be, perceptions and plans are finally beginning to chip away at the epidemic’s grasp. Drug addiction, once treated solely by law enforcement, is now being regarded more as a disease, while a better system of tracking prescriptions is being put in place, and recovery methods are becoming easier to access. “I do have hope,” notes Macklemore by Prescription for Change’s end. “I think there is a shift in consciousness.”


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