Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea opens up about his opioid experience

Culture / News

“I was high as hell when I took those things.”

Mar 1, 2018
Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea Opens Up About His Opioid Experience

Musician Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers poses shirtless in his hotel room for a portrait, while holding his guitar and wearing a baseball cap which says “Cube” in August 1992 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Catherine McGann/Getty Images)

If a line in a Red Hot Chili Peppers song doesn’t sound like it’s about California then your second guess would probably be drugs. The band behind “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” has had well-publicized bouts with addiction. Their original guitarist, Hillel Slovak, died of a heroin overdose in 1988. And now, another founding member and the band’s bass player Flea—who has had his own struggles with addiction—has been motivated by America’s opioid crisis to pen an op-ed for TIME.

“I’ve been around substance abuse since the day I was born,” writes Flea. “I saw three of my dearest friends die from drugs before they turned 26, and had some close calls myself. It was a powerful yearning to be a good father that eventually inspired a sense of self-preservation, and in 1993 at the age of 30 I finally got that drugs were destructive and robbing my life force.”

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(From left to right) Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Hillel Slovak, Jack Irons, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ancienne Belgique (AB), Brussels, Belgium, 17/02/1988. (Photo by Gie Knaeps/Getty Images)

In the piece, Flea says that going clean is an immensely difficult feat and, despite all the programs and mentorships, there is no singular method for everyone. Even after finding sobriety, he says, a shadow can remain, and pain can follow. But for Flea, much of this is in the past. What disturbs him more is the present.

In 2016, Flea broke his arm while snowboarding in Montana. The accident required casts, screws, re-learning how to play bass and a two-month prescription of Oxycontin, a highly addictive opioid. The Oxycontin, Flea writes, had a disturbingly familiar sensation. It numbed not just physical pain but his emotional pain as well. I was “high as hell when I took those things,” he writes. Knowing he could have his prescription refilled, Flea recognized where this medically-approved path could lead him.  

“Perfectly sane people become addicted to these medications and end up dead,” writes Flea. “Lawyers, plumbers, philosophers, celebrities—addiction doesn’t care who you are… There is obviously a time when painkillers should be prescribed, but medical professions should be more discerning.”

Read the rest here.

Mar 1, 2018