Macklemore and Obama Team Up to Reduce Stigma of Addiction

By McCarton Ackerman 05/17/16

The duo addressed the opioid epidemic in the latest White House weekly address.

President Obama and Macklemore
Photo via YouTube/The White House

President Obama and Grammy-winning artist Macklemore teamed up for a May 14 White House weekly address on drug addiction that served as a prelude to Macklemore's upcoming MTV special later this summer.

The video, released by the White House on Saturday, shows the rapper talking about his own struggles with addiction as Obama explains what his administration is doing to work on this issue. Macklemore broke ground with the video by becoming the first non-administration official to appear in one of Obama’s weekly addresses.

The president cites several statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including that deaths from opioid overdoses have tripled since 2000 and 44% of Americans know someone who is addicted to prescription painkillers. He also noted that drug overdoses now kill more people than traffic accidents.

“Addiction doesn’t always start in some dark alley,” said Obama. “It often starts in a medicine cabinet.”

Obama once again clarified that his administration advocates drug treatment over jail sentences, and that health plans under Obamacare have to include coverage for treatment. He has also asked for Congress to expand access to recovery services and to give first responders access to naloxone, in addition to urging that doctors receive more training about the potency and risks of the pain medication they prescribe.

For Macklemore, access to treatment is what saved his life. He said that teaming with Obama for their MTV special was important in helping to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction, so that other people also feel comfortable asking for treatment they need.

“If I hadn’t gotten the help I needed, when I needed it, I definitely wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “This doesn’t just happen to other people’s kids or in some other neighborhood. It can happen to anyone.”

The rapper also spoke about losing his friend, Kevin, to a prescription drug overdose when Kevin was just 21 years old. Macklemore also tackled his friend’s death on his latest album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.

“Addiction isn’t a personal choice or a personal failing. Sometimes it takes more than a strong will to get better,” said the 32-year-old rapper. “It takes a strong community and accessible resources. We have to tell people who need help that it’s okay to ask for it and to make sure they know how to get it.”

No air date or title has been confirmed for the one-hour documentary special with Macklemore. The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that shooting is still taking place and will feature the rapper meeting with young people who have been affected by addiction.

Watch the weekly address in the video below:

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.