The Complicated Relationship Between the Straight Edge Community and Addiction

As most of you know, straight edge started as a counter-culture movement in response to the rise of drug and alcohol addiction in the punk and hardcore scene. Straight edge was born to give people who did not participate in either thing a way to identify themselves, their bands, and their community. Like many people in the hardcore scene, I am straight edge.

Additionally, I have seen addiction first hand; my father has been a self-identifying “functioning alcoholic” for my entire life, and the majority of my familial elders have smoked cigarettes since they were young teens. Smoking even gave two of them health problems that eventually took their lives.

These experiences only serve strengthen my relationship with my personal choice to identify as straight edge. I’ve watched addictions take the lives of my loved ones, and take away my father’s ability to be a father, as well as a husband (on separate occasions).

The key word to that first sentence, however, is personal. I have friends who engage in drug use, I have friends who drink, and I have friends who smoke, at varying levels of use. We attend parties and shows together. I never tell them to stop (except for maybe telling them to blow the smoke in another direction because I’m a nerd with asthma). I never try to indoctrinate them with how I feel. Most importantly, I never judge them.

This does not mean that I encourage usage of any of these substances, or that I think addiction is some sort of sad, beautiful thing, as some people on the internet choose to romanticize and glamorize it to be. I, and many other straight edge people, have the right to vocalize that addiction is bad, destructive, and a myriad of other adjectives.

What I do not have the right to do is capitalize on someone’s drug-related death to push an agenda.
As any internet-using person probably knows, rapper Lil Peep passed away a on November 15th, just two weeks after his 21st birthday. While no official toxicology report is out yet, the Tuscon, Arizona police initially claimed he overdosed on Xanax. It is pretty hard to overdose on Xanax, as this article explains, so the likelihood of it being plain old Xanax is slim to none. The more likely hypothesis is that he took Xanax that was laced with Fentanyl, as detailed in this NME article. (This is the drug that allegedly contributed to Prince’s death as well.) The weeks following this tragedy has shown us a plethora of awful statements from all kinds of people.

While it is true that Lil Peep displayed his drug use by popping pills on video regularly and posting it to social media, that does not mean he automatically “got what was coming to him,” or that he deserved to die. He had a very promising rap career, made music that helped many people, and seemed like he was destined for even more success than he already had.

Unless you are told, you have no idea why Lil Peep, or any other addict, uses drugs. His lyrics and tweets showed that he was very depressed, and he was in a  tangle of relationship problems on Twitter (which, however, does not mean that this is the fault of anyone he was involved with). While I personally believe drugs are a poor coping mechanism for mental illness, the time of someone’s death is not the time to open up a condemning conversation towards addicts.

There was even a chance he was in recovery - fans reported him showing withdrawal symptoms, like shaking and vomiting, at his concerts. When you are in recovery from an addiction, you’re even more likely to overdose because of your body’s fragility. However, it doesn’t push some people’s agendas to condemn addicts to acknowledge this possibility, so it’s not being brought up. While being in recovery does not make him any more or less worth respect, but it’s still worth mentioning.

If you truly care about the well-being of addicts, make sure that you keep an eye on your loved ones, reach out to them if they are showing signs of a dangerous addiction, and especially be careful if they are using substances to deal with the pain of their mental illness. Xanax use can start from a very necessary prescription. In Peep’s case, a drug that seemed familiar and “safe” to use becomes majorly dangerous because it was laced. Any substance abuse can happen in the blink of an eye as a person gets addicted to the feeling of escaping their pain, and we no longer live in a climate where it is at all difficult to get access to drugs. That is why we need education and compassion - not judgment.

No matter what any idiot on Twitter says, straight edge is not a gang. We do not wish death on people, or hope to cause it. While it is understandable to realize addiction is a horrible thing and not something to be glamorized, when someone loses their life to an addiction, that is not your cue to put on the tough guy act and hide behind a label that means a lot to the people who identify with it.

Don’t make everyone who claims straight edge look bad just because you want to be an inconsiderate asshole.

RIP Peep.


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