To Blame Juice Wrld’s Mother For His Death Is To Downplay The Power Of Addiction
Rap music and its unhealthy relationship with drug use resurfaced in conversation this week when news broke that young artist Juice Wrld passed away. The “Lucid Dreams” rapper, whose birth name is Jarad Higgins, died after experiencing a seizure in a Chicago airport. Though Higgins’ official cause of death is still pending because additional toxicology, cardiac pathology, and neuropathology testing were required following his initial autopsy report, fans grew concerned that the Chicago native had tragically succumbed to his lengthy battle with drug addiction. Thursday, the rapper’s mother, Carmella Wallace, confirmed the worst.
“Addiction knows no boundaries and its impact goes way beyond the person fighting it,” Wallace said in a statement to TMZ. “Jarad was a son, brother, grandson, friend and so much more to so many people who wanted more than anything to see him defeat addiction. “We hope the conversations he started in his music and his legacy will help others win their battles as that is what he wanted more than anything. We know that Jarad’s legacy of love, joy and emotional honesty will live on.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, Higgins, who met his tragic demise just six days after his 21st birthday, was in the middle of a federal police search when the seizure occurred. Witnesses say that the rapper had consumed several Percocet pills in an attempt to hide them from officers. The search reportedly uncovered 41 “vacuum-sealed” bags of marijuana, six bottles of prescription codeine cough syrup, and several guns. As of Tuesday, a spokesman from the police department said they were still investigating who the drugs belonged to.
Over the duration of his brief but impactful career, Higgins has been anything but secretive regarding his personal demons. He spoke openly about his struggles with drug use and aspirations of sobriety in both his music and in interviews. Earlier this year, he revealed that addiction to lean had held him in a vice grip since the sixth grade. He confessed to Billboard that he was inspired to try the concoction, which is made of cough syrup and soda, after listening to Future’s Dirty Sprite.
“I think I broke [Future’s] heart a little bit,” he told the publication. “What do you expect if I’m a young dude that really loves music, really looks up to these artists? I didn’t have a man giving me no type of guidance. My father wasn’t in my life like that. So listening to this grown-ass man rap about lean, I’m like, ‘Well, that sounds really appealing.’”
As fans grapple with the weight of his death, some have set out to place blame on Higgins’ mother. According to some of the rhetoric that has surfaced on social networking platforms, if she had done more to treat her son’s addiction when it first began, he might still be here. As jarring as it is to hear Juice Wrld trace his addiction back to middle school, to place blame on his mother is not only hurtful and counterproductive, it is also reflective of how little we truly understand about addiction and its power. As a result, the blame game seems to be the default reaction when addiction rears its ugly head.
“All too often, there is a stigma attached to this disease,” Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in New York, told Parents back in September. “Parents think, ‘I must have failed.’ That’s part of the shame and stigma parents take on…and that’s not the case in our recent experience.”
Instead, research shows that a variety of different factors come into play that put teens at a higher risk of developing an addiction including mental, emotional, and behavioral issues, genetic predisposition, anxiety, and other mood-related disorders.
Additionally, addiction is a ruthless illness and it’s hard to imagine what it feels like to have your family ripped apart by it until you’ve actually lived through it. As badly as you want to see that loved one conquer their demons, it’s not a battle that you can fight for them.
We don’t know all of the circumstances behind his first encounter with opioids. We don’t know the full extent of what measures were taken by Wallace to get her son help when he first demonstrated signs of drug use in the sixth grade. What we do know is that she was a single Black mom trying to raise her son mostly alone after divorcing his father when he was just three years old. We do know that she worked tirelessly trying to provide for her child. We do know that she is a religious woman who tried to protect her son by being strict and barring him from listening to rap music — the very rap music that prompted him to take that first sip of lean. Like most mothers, it sounds as though she tried to raise her child in the best way she knew how. Unfortunately, when it comes to addiction, family members are only secondary characters in those tragic tales. They can offer support, but only the addict can beat the addiction.