Chris Cornell's Widow Says Drug Use Led To Singer's Suicide

By Keri Blakinger 02/26/18

Vicky Cornell recently revealed that the legendary rocker had relapsed and reached out for help two months before his death. 

Chris and Vicky Cornell
Chris and Vicky Cornell

Chris Cornell’s widow opened up about her husband’s suicide in a wide-ranging ABC News interview in which she blamed the singer’s death on his drug use. 

When the 52-year-old former Soundgarden frontman was found dead in a Detroit hotel room in May of 2017, he had seven different drugs in his system—though not enough of any to have caused his death.

Even so, Vicky Cornell said the illicit cocktail impacted his judgment. "He wanted to be there for his family, for his children. He loved his life," she told ABC News. “I don't think that he could make any decisions because of the level of impairment.”

Previously, the grieving widow blamed too much anxiety medication for her husband’s death.

After years of sobriety, the brooding “Like a Stone” singer had returned to drug use in the months before death, according to Vicky Cornell. “Approximately a year before he died, he was prescribed a benzodiazepine to help him sleep,” she said. “He had torn his shoulder,” she added. “The pain in the shoulder was waking him up at night and it was keeping him up.”

But that prescription soon led back to full-blown addiction, a demon he’d struggled with throughout his life. In a week, “he took 20-something pills,” she said. “And in a nine-day period, 33.”

Just two months before his death, he emailed a colleague with a terse plea for help. “Would love to talk, had relapse,” he wrote. 

Two months later, he was dead.

Looking back, Vicky Cornell wonders if she could have done more. “I know that people say... you can't blame yourself,” she said. “I'm trying not to, but there were signs.” 

But he didn’t fit the stereotype in some ways, she said, a perception that may have masked the problem. “My husband was the furthest thing from a rock star junkie. He just wasn't," she said. "He was the best husband, the greatest father. I lost my soulmate and the love of my life.”

Moving forward, she’s hoping to add her voice to the chorus speaking out about the stigma surrounding addiction.

“People think that addiction is like, ‘Oh, you were an addict.’ People don’t recognize it as a disease,” she said. “You think addiction is a choice, and it's not. I think that if there was less stigma around it, more people would speak up."

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.