What do Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse have in common? Besides being some of the most popular musicians of their time, all of them struggled with drug and/or alcohol addiction — and as a result, all of them died at the young age of 27. They are the five most famous members of the 27 Club, an exclusive “club” made up of musicians whose lives were cut short at the same age.
You can check out the video we made about this club.
Although each artist in the 27 Club experienced incredible fame and success, their paths to addiction were unique. Life events, environment, genetics, and other factors play significant roles in every person’s path to substance abuse. The type of substance abused also makes a difference in terms of physical and emotional effects, as well as withdrawal and recovery.
Alcohol, for example, is a popular legal substance that many people associate with relaxation. As abuse deepens, relaxed feelings become depressive symptoms that require alcohol for relief. Central nervous system stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine produce euphoria initially, but spiral into intense anxiety and exhaustion once an addictive pattern establishes itself. Some drugs, such as heroin, cause changes in the brain that result in physical dependency. Other drugs, such as marijuana, cause profound emotional dependency.
It is often difficult to understand why a person who has every possible advantage would choose to live the life of an addict. Addiction changes the way the brain works. All kinds of substances negatively affect the ability to learn, remember, make decisions, assess risk, and understand reward. That is why most people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol deny they have a problem even when the signs of addiction are obvious. Past overdoses, legal problems, trouble with money, worsening reputation — none of these red flags are enough to warn the severely addicted individual that using is a life-threatening problem.
By some counts, the club has around 50 members — but is it statistically significant? Some think so, even though a study completed by the British Medical Journal in 2011 found that there was no remarkable increase in death rate for 27-year-old musicians. Regardless, when you rank different professions by average lifespan, entertainment falls at a low average of just over 77 years.
Whether you believe in the curse of the 27 Club or not, the fact remains that all these young musicians were substance abusers and their addictions played a strong role in their deaths. These musicians give a snapshot of the evolving drug issues in the United States, from Hendrix’s death in 1970 to Winehouse’s death in 2011. Between 1990 and 2008, the death rate due to overdose increased threefold. Since 1999, prescription drug overdose specifically has increased by 250%.
These musicians fell victim to their addictions, but it doesn’t have to end that way. With the proper treatment, recovery is possible.
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