Rapper Coolio, whose Gangsta’s Paradise was one of the biggest hit records of the ‘90s, died a number of months ago. At the time, however, his death was attributed to cardiac disease and severe asthma. Now it’s become known that an overdose of fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine was the direct cause. He was 59 years old.
Here’s the story:
As soon as I saw the headline, I knew what would follow. Scrolling down to the reader comments, it was just as I feared: people objected to the use of the word accidental to describe his death. That’s no accident, the readers protested. He used drugs on purpose. Makes it his own damn fault that he died.
“They are choosing to use, they don’t have to take drugs,” opined one reader.
Sigh. Okay, let me explain this. Again.
Someone’s drug use may in fact have been deliberate, but the overdose that followed is often anything but. Coolio’s death was determined to be an accident in the sense that nothing was found to suggest he intended to end his life.
Most likely, his aim was simply to get high. Kick back, relax. No note, no other evidence suggesting he planned to depart this Earth permanently.
In deciding to use drugs, Coolio wasn’t doing anything different than millions of others do — every single day of the year. We can safely presume that here, it was the outcome that came as a surprise.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have, given the publicity around the risks of drug use in the age of fentanyl. Who knows? Maybe he trusted his supplier. Millions do, after all. We could point his error out to him, if he were still breathing.
I know some very earnest Americans believe that simply by legalizing all drug use, we could eliminate the need for a black market and the problems that go along with it. If people can buy the stuff legally, they argue, there’ll be no need for the corner dealers or the guy at work that everyone knows is the place to go for party supplies. Such outlaw sellers will fade away, from neglect.
Big surprise is in store when they don’t. Instead, the black market continues to flourish post-legalization – perhaps even more in the age of the Internet. It’s happening now with cannabis, and it’s likely to be repeated with hallucinogens, if and when they become fully legal.
We’ve discussed the reasons. Price is the main issue. Like Walmart, a black marketeer can get away with a limited selection of products that users want most, available at a price they can afford. That’s because outlaw sellers aren’t paying taxes on the sale. And when you can buy your drugs from the dude at the end of the hall, why stand in line at the local dispensary? Where for all you know, cops are secretly photographing everybody for their ‘files’.
Personally, I don’t spend much time speculating about someone’s motives for using drugs. “There must have been something wrong in his life,” friends will insist, “or he would never have taken a risk like that.” I’m afraid that isn’t true. Whoever he was, he could simply have been looking for a quick way to feel good. Maybe it wasn’t his first time. He’d done drugs before, perhaps often, and survived.
Coolio, we’re told, showed signs of recent PCP use. Appears he wasn’t exactly a beginner.
Likewise, I don’t devote much energy to blaming drug use on social ills. If society were a better place, you’ll hear someone insist, people wouldn’t need to turn to drugs. I’m sure that’s true for some of us, but human beings discovered that drugs would get them high thousands of years ago. I imagine they overdosed from time to time, too. But in the vast majority of cases, death wasn’t the result.
When they did die, it was likely by accident.