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Viewpoint: An Alternate Take on the Death of Juice WRLD

America does not have a drug problem, we have a mental health problem.

Cody Ayres

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As more information continues to come to light regarding the death of alt-rapper Juice WRLD, fans and critics alike have started to debate fault.

Does the blame for this loss to the music industry rest on the rapper himself, his team who brought firearms onto a plane, the pilot who alerted the police of the illegal activity or the cops themselves for not reacting quickly enough? What’s lost in this unending cycle of finger pointing are the underlying issues behind the death of the talented artist.

Jarad Higgins was at the height of his popularity when he passed, swimming in oceans of riches and fame most only dream about. The 21 year old had enough money to afford the 70 pounds of weed and various other drugs found on his private plane.

Additionally, he had enough money for us to know that he didn’t plan on selling any of them.

Higgins in life and death is a representative of millions suffering with mental health issues. This is an example of an individual who wanted to feel better, who wanted to feel like the world was a place worth living in, even if that meant altering that world until he could feel comfortable in it.

Which leads us to the morning of December 8, when the young rapper faced a harrowing situation. In attempting to feel better via the only means he knew, the 21-year-old was thrust into a scenario where his coping mechanism would result in him being removed from the life that he’d built and had turned him into a prisoner. A situation where the methods he’d created for his personal happiness would be stripped from him along his very freedom.

We don’t know what was going through Higgins’s head when he decided to take the pills that would in return take his life. Maybe it was desperation to preserve the life he’d forged or maybe the young artist saw it as his opportunity to end that life on his own terms.

What we do know is that that morning saw a no win scenario end with a horrific outcome.

The argument can be made that an individual should be allowed to deal with their mental health issues any way that they see fit. Looking at it from this angle, Juice WRLD may still be alive today. The rapper had access to scores of various drugs and had never overdosed before. In fact, the events that allowed the drugs to take his life only came to fruition when authorities attempted to enforce laws put in place for his own protection.

Maybe the consequences for possession of drugs with the intent to self medicate shouldn’t be severe enough to cause an individual to put their existence in jeopardy.

What we also know is that Juice WRLD’s death, while tragic, is not unique. The rapper joined more than half a million Americans who died from drug related overdoses in the last ten years. In the dying days of this decade we as music fans are forced to observe a high profile example of an issue that has grown into a prominent part of our society.

So if we’re to continue to demonize hard drug use — and the arguments to do so are also very valid — then it’s time to do so while putting an end to the pseudo nonsensical war on drugs. In turn we have to start looking at the causes behind their growing prominence in society.

America does not have a drug problem, we have a mental health problem. There is a sickness that the continued war on drugs only treats the symptoms of, opting to attack users and distributors instead of tackling the problem at the source. Like a drug company continuing to treat symptoms of a disease while suppressing a cure, attacking the symptoms of America’s drug problem alienates individuals while keeping our society sick.

This sickness will continue until we embrace the need for a cure by putting a focus not on the methods of escapism but on the mental health issues that distributors exploit for profit and users continue to lose their lives over.

R.I.P Jarad Higgins, R.I.P Mac Miller, R.I.P to the hundreds of thousands who won’t be joining us as we enter the next decade and please let their deaths be the catalyst for the change in policy that we have needed for so long.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

My name is Cody Ayres and I am a UNCC graduate with a bachelors degree in sociology. While in college I served as the causes coordinator for the campuses concerts and causes club, which put on small shows to raise money for charitable foundations. I am currently living in Charlotte, N.C. where I work as a bartender while also writing for a startup channel called ignore the world. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing soccer as well as watching just about any sport that I can get my eyes on.

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