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How to escape from a World of Drugs: Ozzy Osbourne’s story

This post is also available in Dutch.

Overcoming drug addiction is hard. However, against all odds, the rock star Ozzy Osbourne made it… and scientists want to know how.

“Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.” Since the late sixties, this has been the mantra adopted by many artists searching for success in the music industry. With musical success, fame comes hand-in-hand with easy access to drugs. Despite the negative impact that drugs have on their lives, some artists end up embracing their addiction… to the point that it becomes hard to separate their struggles from what the fans actually find fascinating about such characters. You might be thinking of a favorite artist of yours that fits this picture, but I could not think of a better fit than “The Prince of Darkness” Ozzy Osbourne.

A very brief introduction to Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne is one of the most prominent figures of rock and heavy metal music. He first became famous for singing in the British band Black Sabbath during the seventies, and later had a long and successful solo career. Ozzy became known not only for his music, but also for his addiction to different kinds of drugs (alcohol, weed, cocaine, etc.), which catalyzed all sorts of grotesque situations. Ozzy is remembered for being arrested after urinating on the monument Alamo Cenotaph in San Antonio, Texas; for having bitten the heads off two doves during a meeting with his recording label; and for repeating the same predatory behavior with a bat during a concert. These were some of the crazy episodes that marked the 40-year period in which Ozzy was addicted to drugs.

The dark side of Ozzy’s drug addiction

Although Ozzy’s lifestyle has been seen by many as a source of fascinating stories and magazine covers, he, like many others, simply fell prey to the dark reality of drug addiction. If you take a brief look at Ozzy’s biography, you can find many of the symptoms and life-risk factors typically associated with drug addiction: constant conflicts and violence toward his wife, bandmates and colleagues; aggravation of his cognitive state, together with the diagnosis of anxiety, depression and psychosis; recurrent physical accidents, which even led to a coma a couple of times; and an episode of immune system failure that raised suspicion that he had HIV.

Once fallen into drug addiction, it’s very difficult to get up again.
Image courtesy of Alexander Krivitskiy and Pexels (CC0 1.0).

Like many other drug addicts, Ozzy suffered the struggles of leaving the world of addiction behind. Treatment of drug addiction is very complex and marked by constant relapses. Unlike many others, Ozzy was in a privileged position to afford an expensive therapy based on powerful antipsychotic and tranquilizing drugs. However, this option led to problems with pill over-prescription and to an increased aggravation of his cognitive deficit.

Recovering from drug addiction is more than a marathon toward a better life: it’s a race against death. In 2017, worldwide statistics pointed to over 350,000 deaths that were directly attributed to substance use. These statistics do not include all the indirect cases linked to drug addiction that increase life risk. Taking all of the eventual scenarios into account, one cannot deny the threat that drug addiction poses to human life.

Not so many people were optimistic about Ozzy’s chances. Against all odds, Ozzy was able to survive 40 years of drug addiction, which surprised not only his fans, but also medical researchers. Perhaps Ozzy’s resilience is more than a matter of luck, and actually due to genetic factors that improved his chances of survival. That’s why, in 2010, Ozzy became one of the few people to donate a sample covering his entire genome. With DNA sequencing, researchers will be able to speculate about the genetic risk contributing to his addiction and his ability to recover. Who knows? Maybe the cure for drug addiction resides in Ozzy’s genome…

Ozzy was able to stop his addiction in 2013 and significantly improve his psychiatric condition. He took this second chance to redeem himself from the bad things he did in the past. He apologized to the city of San Antonio for his bad behavior back in 1982 and resolved the issues he had with the people he cared for, including his previous bandmates in Black Sabbath. They even got together for the last album, and toured a few years until their grand finale in 2017. Currently, at 70 years old, Ozzy is recovering from a physical injury, and still promising to tour with his band. Hopefully, he can fulfill the promise once more and reward his fans with his grotesque presence.

Original language: English
Author: João Guimarães
Buddy: Monica Wagner
Editor: Christienne Gonzales Damatac
Translator: Felix Klaassen
Editor Translation: Jill Naaijen

Credits: Ozzy Osbourne and his wife Sharon. Top image courtesy of Pixabay (CC0 1.0).

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