Rapper Macklemore joined President Barack Obama on Saturday in his weekly White House radio and web address to raise awareness of prescription drug abuse and urged Congress to do more to help those battling addiction access treatment.
The Grammy-winning artist, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, opened up about his own battle with addiction to prescription medication and said treatment, along with a 12-step program, saved his life.
"I’m here with President Obama because I take this personally," Macklemore said. "If I hadn’t gotten the help I needed when I needed it, I might not be here today. And I want to help others facing the same challenges I did."
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Obama noted drug overdoses currently take more lives than traffic accidents every year, with opioid overdose deaths tripling since 2000 — often due to legal drugs prescribed by doctors.
"Addiction doesn't always start in some dark alley, it often starts in a medicine cabinet," Obama said, citing a new study that found 44 percent of Americans know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers.
Addiction is a recurring theme on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' album "This Unruly Mess I've Made," with the track "Kevin" tackling the drug-related death of the rapper's 21-year-old friend. Macklemore talked about Kevin during the weekly address.
"I didn’t just know someone, I lost someone. My friend Kevin overdosed on painkillers when he was just 21 years old," Macklemore said. "Addiction is like any other disease: It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care what color you are, whether you’re a guy or a girl, rich or poor, whether you live in the inner-city, a suburb, or rural America. It can happen to any of us."
The House passed a bipartisan package of bills this week to battle America's growing epidemic of painkiller abuse and heroin addiction, and sent them to the Senate to be approved or reconciled with existing Senate legislation, NBC News reported.
But Obama said Saturday they don't go far enough, and called on Congress to pass an additional $1.1 billion in new funding "to make sure that every American with an opioid use disorder who wants treatment can get the help they need," the White House said in a statement.
"When you’re going through it, it’s hard to imagine there could be anything worse than addiction," Macklemore said. "Shame and the stigma associated with the disease keeps too many people from seeking the help they need. Addiction isn’t a personal choice or a personal failing. And sometimes it takes more than a strong will to get better — it takes a strong community and accessible resources."