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The singer is known for her honesty in life and her music. Shes been talking about solitude, sobriety and how Quentin Tarantino convinced her to give up cocaine

Its been eight years since Fiona Apple last graced the world with a studio album, but an illuminating profile in the latest issue of the New Yorker, filled with a fair number of wild anecdotes involving her celebrity cohorts, serves to remind us of her brilliance. Here are six reasons why Apple is just the performer we need in this mixed-up, locked-down world.

She doesnt shy away from the difficult topics
Apple has said that her new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, is about women and not being afraid to speak. Throughout her career she has spoken, in her songs and in the press, about her issues with depression, self-harm, OCD, PTSD, and the fact that, when she was 12, she was raped by a stranger.

In so doing, she paved the way for other women to speak about their experiences, from Kesha to Lady Gaga, and on to the #MeToo movement.

She has the best story about giving up cocaine
Every addict should just get locked in a private movie theatre with QT [Quentin Tarantino] and PTA [Paul Thomas Anderson] on coke, she jokingly told the New Yorker magazine. And theyll never want to do it again.

She can teach us a thing or two about self-isolation
Apple doesnt venture out much these days, save to walk her dog along the beach near her home in Venice Beach, California.

She has learned how to live a little more wisely
Once a bottle-of-vodka-a-day level drinker, Apple is now sober and has been vegan for many years.

She knows her political onions
Last summer, Apple pledged two years worth of earnings from her song Criminal to the While They Wait fund, which finances legal support and necessities for immigrants seeking asylum. In 2017, she released Tiny Hands for the Womens March on Washington. She has said that one of her latest tracks, For Her, was written in a cloud of rage after the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to Supreme Court Justice.

She has her priorities straight
In late 2012, Apple postponed the South American leg of her tour due to the ill-health of her dog, Janet.

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Mushrooms used to be the territory of hippies, explorers, indigenous people and artists. Now tech bros and wellness gurus have taken over

On a June evening in 1955, an investment banker and amateur mycologist named Robert Gordon Wasson found himself in an adobe house high in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, encountering the divine. That night, Wasson, his wife, the photographer Allan Richardson and about 20 local indigenous people took part in a Mazatec ritual involving psilocybe mexicana, a species of hallucinogenic mushroom. As Wasson recounted in Seeking the Magic Mushroom, his 1957 Lifemagazine photoessay: We chewed and swallowed these acrid mushrooms, saw visions, and emerged from the experience awestruck.

In the first episode of The Goop Lab, a new Netflix docuseries tied to actor Gwyneth Paltrows lifestyle and e-commerce enterprise, several of Paltrows employees fly to a Jamaican resort, in search of some modern analogue to Wassons psychedelic ceremony.

The volunteers for Goops psilocybin ritual a hodgepodge of hand-me-down indigenous liturgy, weekend-long Pilates retreat, and hollow self-help blather are all described as being deeply successful people. Gone are Wassons visions of the archetypes, the platonic ideas, that underlie the imperfect images of everyday life. In their place: the clinking of coffee mugs filled with mushroom tea; giggling and group-hugging on yoga mats; tearful sobbing by participants listening to music through wireless Apple AirPods; and people sinking into Patagonia vests repurposed as makeshift pillows.

Back in the Goop headquarters (or lab), Paltrow speaks of psilocybin as the newest, hottest healing modality. Mushrooms, as one researcher tells the Gooper-in-Chief, are back.

And in their current iteration, theyre also totally uncool.

For most people, psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and LSD are singularly associated with the 1960s American youth culture. The English psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond coined the term psychedelic meaning, roughly, mind-manifesting in 1956 to describe the effects of hallucinogenic drugs taken in a clinical context. The word, for Osmond, was clear, euphonious and uncontaminated by other associations.

But the history of psychedelics and psychedelia (that is, the culture that has coalesced around the drugs and their usage) can itself feel somewhat contaminated by certain associations. Even the phrase psychedelic 60s slips so naturally off the tongue, encouraged as much by the pleasing (euphonious, even) sibilance as the cliches conjured in the collective memory: San Francisco, Sgt Pepper, Woodstock, tie-dye, and Timothy Leary urging youngsters to turn on, tune in, and drop out. Beyond these more obvious, ready-made cultural signifiers, psychedelics helped catalyze the 80s British rave scene, facilitate Bob Dylans more introspective lyrical turn, and helped Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis throw a legendary no-hitter.

Whether these things are at all fascinating or cool is, perhaps, a matter of taste dependent on ones tolerance for kaleidoscopic tapestries, all-night dance parties, woolly talk about self-transcendence, and freeform electric guitar jamming. But the so-called psychedelic renaissance that Goop seized upon feels like part of a larger, concerted attempt, to break free of these associations. Its part reset, part rebranding effort.

Recently, Canadian businessman and TV personality Kevin OLeary (the no-nonsense Mr Wonderful from ABCs entrepreneurial cavalcade Shark Tank) announced that he had invested in a neuro-pharmaceutical company dedicated to exploring the clinical benefits of psychedelics in treating addiction. Like Paltrow, who waxes on the potential of psychedelics in a process she calls the optimization of self, OLeary an investor who has spoken to the role Ayn Rands Atlas Shruggedplayed in shaping his business acumen doesnt exactly seem like an avatar of free love, mind-expansion, and other platitudes of the psychedelic sixties. And thats precisely the point. If we are now expected to take psychedelics seriously, they must appear, well, serious.

Parsing Goops sundry claims to pseudoscience and utter quackery feels like low hanging fruit. (Paltrows company had to pay damages in 2018 after a court ruled that the benefits of a $66 jade egg, advertised on the Goop website for its role in supporting vaginal health, were unsupported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.) In the case of magic mushrooms, however, the science seems solid. Researchers at NYU, Londons Imperial College, and Johns Hopkins University, have produced reams of reputable evidence pointing to psilocybins role in easing depression, PTSD, anxiety, and even addiction.

Such research marks a resurgence of these substances in a clinical context a resurgence arguably unseen since the 60s cocktail of hedonistic recreational excess and resulting social panic stripped psychedelics of any lingering reputability. If the current surge of serious interest in psychedelics is, in any meaningful way, a renaissance, then its not reviving the cultural heyday of hippies, Hells Angels, campus protests and free outdoor rock concerts, but an earlier period in these drugs history. Before these powerful substances fell into the hands of hippies, they were largely evangelized by doctors, executives, and academics including the above-mentioned Osmond, and author Aldous Huxley, who firmly believed that the psychedelic experience be made available only to an elite coterie of achievers.

Even Wasson, one of the earliest known white Americans to partake in a psychedelic sacrament, returned to work as a high-level executive of an investment bank. Like Goops Gwyneth Paltrow, Shark Tanks Kevin OLeary, and other current vanguards of the contemporary psychedelic vogue, such early evangelists were very much part of the establishment the 60s cohort opposed: deeply successful people whose minds required, if not perspective-shattering expansion, then just a little optimization.

  • John Semley is the author of Hater: On the Virtues of Utter Disagreeability

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Love drugs could soon be a reality, and used alongside therapy to help heal broken relationships, claims a new book

For some time, it has been widespread medical practice to treat a range of psychological conditions, including depression and anxiety, with what might be called mind-altering drugs, namely selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which, as the name suggests, affect levels of serotonin in the brain. But theres one mental category that isnt considered appropriate for any kind of biomedical intervention. Its arguably the most talked about of all human states, the cause of much of our finest art, literature and music, and it is celebrated or, depending on your view, commercially exploited once again on Friday: love.

It may be a many splendoured thing, but love is a condition for which there is famously no cure. All you need is love, as the song said, but money cant buy you it. Its viewed as an emotional ideal and yet the source of untold pain and suffering. Ask any 10 people what love is and youre sure to get 10 different answers. Unsurprisingly, given that it is the stuff of romance, we tend to romanticise it. Millions of words have been spilled in trying to describe the feeling, but not many have been devoted to the biochemical processes that lie behind it.

In their new book, Love Is the Drug, Oxford ethicists Brian Earp and Julian Savulescu point out that this neglected aspect of love is just as important as its social or psychological structures. Intuitively, perhaps, weve always known this. After all, how do we explain the lack of interest felt on a new date? There was no chemistry.

Yet while we have largely come to accept that drugs that affect the brain have a part to play in treating psychological illnesses, the idea that the same approach could apply to love goes against the grain. We think of love as natural and healthy and therefore not something that is in need of what Earp and Savulescu delicately call biomedical enhancement.

The authors, however, argue that its time to change our attitudes and explore the possibilities offered by breakthroughs in biomedicine and neuroscience. If it becomes possible to safely target the underlying neurochemistry that supports romantic attachment, using drugs or other brain-level technologies, they write, then there is reason to think this could help some people who really need it.

They go further and suggest that such drugs have already been partially tested, have been used by huge numbers of people around the world, and should urgently become the subject of controlled research. The problem is the drugs theyre talking about are illegal psychoactive substances such as psilocybin and, in particular, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), the active ingredient in the rave drug ecstasy.

They cite studies that show positive results for the use of MDMA in counselling those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and speculate that similar outcomes might be expected for couples whose relationships have hit the rocks.

But isnt that a bit of an inductive stretch? What does the effect of, say, fighting in Iraq have to do with failing romances? Earp points out that there is already a small study showing how couples in which one partner has PTSD have benefited from the regulated use of MDMA. The way the drug is thought to work on PTSD sufferers, he says, is by breaking down the defence mechanisms that prevent their being able to open up.

Our point is that trauma falls on a spectrum and relationships themselves can be traumatic, he explains. What causes a lot of relationships to break down over time is traumatic or semi-traumatic events that take place either inside or outside the relationship. People start to close down and stop sharing with their partners. Insofar as love requires a certain kind of intimacy, the defence mechanism and the kneejerk fear responses that we build up around talking about certain issues with our partners are the very things that this drug directly enables us to overcome.

As may be gathered from that response, Earp is not interested in bringing biomedical enhancement to first dates, for reasons of what he terms authenticity. He wants to focus on those who have already passed that initial chemistry test and whose love has subsequently become worn and torn by the everyday rigours of life.

If you take a drug that all of a sudden makes you feel much closer to someone than you did five minutes ago, theres a risk that its the drug doing the work rather than some sort of established compatibility between you and the other person, he says. I think it was Timothy Leary who coined the term instant marriage syndrome, where people would meet someone at a dance and think, Ooh, Ive met my soulmate and theyd go and get married and as the drug wore off, and they got to know each other better, they found they didnt actually have good compatibility.

Of course MDMA is best known in this country for its starring role in the so-called second summer of love in 1988, when a generation of rave-goers discovered ecstasy, got loved up and shared the mass euphoria of dancing all night in an urban warehouse or field. The social idealism glimpsed at the beginning of that social movement soon spiralled into hedonistic excess, and it wasnt long before stories of teenage deaths related to taking the drug ruined the utopian dream.

Though largely unheard of in the UK before that summer, MDMA was already technically illegal for more than 10 years under umbrella legislation concerning phenethylamines. In the US, it was not made illegal until 1985. Earp and Savulescu are not now calling for its wholesale legalisation. They acknowledge its potential dangers, particularly if taken in the wrong situation with inadequate support, and argue that it should only be available in a therapeutic setting, under the guidance of a professional.

Kristin Kreuk and Adam Sinclair in Ecstasy, an adaptation of Irvine Welshs 1996 story The Undefeatured, set amid ecstasy users in the rave scene. Photograph: Intandem Films/Allstar

Until 1985, as Love Is the Drug reminds us, MDMA had been used by many relationship counsellors in the US. In 1998, psychiatrists George Greer and Requa Tolbert wrote in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, of their experience of conducting MDMA-enhanced therapeutic sessions with about 80 clients in the first half of the 1980s.

These clients had to give their informed consent and were selected after a pre-screening process. Then Greer and Tolbert would meet the clients in their homes, where they would administer a pure dose of between 77mg and 150mg of MDMA, with a 50mg booster if requested later on (the street drug in the UK is said to contain upwards of 150mg, and occasionally as much as 300mg). According to Greer and Tolbert, 90% of their clients benefited from MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, with some, as Earp and Savulescu write, reporting that they felt more love toward their partners and were better able to move beyond past pains and pointless grudges.

A cynic might say, whats left of love after that? But a more serious point is how to distinguish the relationships that are worth saving or enhancing from those that are fundamentally dysfunctional, when there might be a danger that the temporary high could help disguise the dysfunction.

Earp and Savulescu are careful not to be too prescriptive in their definitions of love, allowing that its pretty much whatever those who declare possession of it say it is. Equally, Earp is on guard for external paternalistic judgments of other peoples relationships. His belief is that there is a monogamy/promiscuity spectrum along which we all fall and that no position on it is more natural than any other. So one-size-fits-all classifications are destined to miss the mark.

I think it would be a mistake to say everyone should be lifelong monogamists, no matter what, and were going to enforce that through the criminal code, he says. But it would also be a mistake to say that were all just bonobos and monogamy is a thing of the past and we should have as many sexual partners as we can find. In the world of meaning, subjective experience and how we relate to each other, theres a lot of room for diverse interpretations of whats valuable.

History has a bad track record of deciding what the right relationship is, says Earp, noting that it was only very recently that homosexual love was brought within the fold of acceptability. But there is one objective criterion to which the pair do hold firm. When it comes to violent abuse, weve drawn a pretty strong line in the sand collectively as a society, he says. That is a very strong signal that its objectively a bad relationship.

The book makes several bold claims that seem the product of marketing needs rather than hardcore scientific fact. For example, it states that the biological underpinnings of romantic love are being revealed and that the prospect of real love drugs is upon us. But there remains a great deal of debate, not to say confusion, about the workings of even such fundamental biological constituents as the hormone testosterone regarding its role in the libido. And as you might expect from professional ethicists, the book is at its most impressive when considering the moral, social and pragmatic issues concerned with scientific development, rather than the details of the development itself.

If and when the aforementioned biological underpinnings are revealed, and we are able to regulate emotions and behaviour through biomedical supplements, does that suggest we will become somehow less autonomous and, consequently, more like a programmable machine?

There are lots of ways we take steps to try to shape ourselves and our self-narratives, says Earp. There are ones that were comfortable with because they dont seem to involve the brain and were a little bit scared of interacting with the brain directly.

But the fact is, he says, even words can affect our brains. He cites the example of the Oedipus myth. One moment hes happily having sex with Jocasta, feeling love towards her, the next he discovers that shes his mother. He hasnt taken any drugs but you can bet that all of a sudden his testosterone levels will plummet and his libido will drop.

Our neurochemistry is changing all the time, says Earp, and one way that can happen is by the direct administration of drugs, which have their own benefits and risks.

We just need to identify those cases where intervening with drugs or psychology or chaining our social circumstance will be likely to improve authenticity or autonomy rather than detract from it.

He speaks with such reasoned composure on the subject that it comes as a surprise to learn that he has never taken MDMA himself.

Ive been interested in that experience but I havent had the opportunity to go forward with that because it remains unjustly and inappropriately prohibited, he says.

The solution, he insists, is open research. In the meantime, well just have to continue fumbling away in the dark, breaking up and making up, trying to understand not just ourselves but the other person at least until the love drug arrives.

Microdosing: the perfect prescription?

In praise of ecstasy
Small studies have found that doses of MDMA can have beneficial effects for ex-military and first-responder PTSD sufferers; however, treatment takes place in controlled environments assisted by psychotherapy. There is no good evidence that recreational microdosing is effective or advisable.

Pot potential
Quality research on the effects of microdosing cannabinoids THC and CBD is nascent. A 2017 study found that very low doses of THC reduce stress, yet higher doses increase anxiety. In other studies, CBD has shown potential in the treatment of insomnia and a range of anxiety disorders.

Spore lore
In a recent episode of Netflixs The Goop Lab, employees of Gwyneth Paltrows wellness company decamped to Jamaica to microdose with magic mushrooms in order to solve various emotional or trauma issues. Although many Silicon Valley types are advocates, there is little high-quality evidence that this is effective.

Love is the Drug by Brian Earp and Julian Savulescu is published by Manchester University Press (20). To order a copy go to Free UK P&P on all online orders over 15

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Overdoses or violent crime have claimed Mac Miller, Juice WRLD and Nipsey Hussle. Its not a fairytale lifestyle, admits an insider but should the business do more to protect its stars?

It might sound callous, but Jacob Thuresons parents, Erik and Judy, were not too worried when they heard about his latest overdose. It had happened a couple of times already and the 18-year-old rapper had always made it out of hospital in one piece. Thureson, who performed under the name Hella Sketchy, was among the wave of emo-influenced trap rappers who came up using the music platform SoundCloud. He had recently relocated from the family home in Texas to Los Angeles after being signed to Atlantic Records.

As Erik drove to work, he cycled through a mental list of options: more inpatient treatment? Thureson had already been to rehab, twice. Ketamine therapy?

There would be no further plan of action. Shortly after Erik left for work, Judy received another phone call. Things were very bad, and they should come to the hospital now. Fourteen days later, on 27 June 2019, Thureson died.

Many young rappers have died in the past few years. Mac Miller died in 2018 aged 26 after consuming cocaine and counterfeit oxycodone containing the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Lil Peep died at 21 in 2017 an accidental fentanyl and Xanax overdose. Juice WRLD died late last year after a drug-induced seizure aboard a private jet. It is believed he swallowed multiple Percocet pills in an attempt to hide them as police raided the plane. On New Years Day, a rare female death: Minnesota rapper Lexii Alijai, the victim of yet another accidental fentanyl overdose.

Alongside these deaths by misadventure, there are the victims of violent crime. Despite being accused of horrific abuse by an ex-partner, XXXTentacion enjoyed massive popularity before being killed in 2018 aged 20 as he was robbed outside a Florida motorcycle dealership. Pittsburgh rapper Jimmy Wopo touted as the heir to local forebears Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller was killed in a drive-by shooting the same day. Two weeks later, 21-year-old Canadian rapper and Drake tourmate Smoke Dawg was killed outside a Toronto nightclub. In March 2019, Nipsey Hussle was shot dead outside his Los Angeles clothing store.

Lil Peep, who died from an accidental fentanyl and Xanax overdose.

Many of these rappers engaged with their own mortality in lyrics that talked about death, drugs and depression. Death is everywhere in SoundCloud rap: the genres unofficial logo is a teardrop. Smokepurpp posed in a coffin in the artwork for his mixtape Deadstar, and Peep often called the Kurt Cobain of his generation owing to his cherubic face, placid manner and dedication to his ever-spiralling nihilism intoned: Everybody tellin me lifes short, but I wanna die, on his 2017 track The Brightside.

Looking at such lyrics, you might reasonably conclude that these rappers wanted to die. But while some of them did experience mental illness and addiction, their death wish was as much of an aesthetic as the pink hair and facial tattoos. So why did the nihilistic pose become a self-fulfilling prophecy, ending the lives of young people barely out of their teens? And what can be done to arrest it?

One problem lies in the way these rappers careers have built with unprecedented speed. While earlier generations of musicians might spend years gigging before being spotted, DIY rap stars have circumvented the record industrys gatekeepers to accrue wealth and success often while still in their teens leaving them struggling to adapt to sudden fame. Peep went from having no manager to being managed by a very large company that deals with high-profile artists, and with that came more money and more pressure, says his friend and collaborator Adam McIlwee, who performs as Wicca Phase Springs Eternal.

In an industry that is ruthlessly dedicated to discovering the hot new thing, pastoral care can be nonexistent. Record labels often dont care about these rappers. They know that when theyre done, the next SoundCloud or Instagram rapper is behind them, says Calvin Smiley, an expert in hip-hop and social justice at Hunter College in New York. On an even more cynical note, he questions why Juice WRLD was carrying his drugs personally. Ive been around hip-hop artists, and the rule of thumb is that there is a friend who holds the drugs and takes the fall, Smiley says. You wonder: where were his handlers? Where were the people giving him direction?

The role of management is also coming under scrutiny. Peeps mother, Liza Womack, is suing First Access Entertainment, who managed the rapper. She claims that they encouraged drug use on Lil Peeps final tour, would obtain drugs for him, and pushed the rapper beyond the limits of what somebody of his age and maturity level could handle emotionally, mentally, and physically. (First Access Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment, but in a legal filing has said its dealings with Peep were purely of a business nature and not the type of special relationship giving rise to an independent duty of care.) McIlwee claims that Peep had a fight with his management shortly before he died. I know there was a show he did not want to play for whatever reason and [the drug-taking] was him just showing the world he didnt really care.

McIlwee says that labels and management should give artists time to recover. If your artist is in trouble, you have to step in and say its time to take a step back or re-evaluate the release schedule, the touring, he says. So the artist can get healthy and have a long career. But that doesnt happen much, because long careers are boring.

There are signs that lessons are being learned. Giuseppe Zappala of Galactic Records manages Lil Tecca, the 17-year-old SoundCloud wunderkind whose track Ransom reached No 4 in the US and has amassed more than 650m plays on Spotify. He has learned to read Teccas moods carefully: if the young rapper appears overtired, Zappala will clear the schedules. He ensures that Tecca has at least a day off between shows and that tours last no longer than five weeks. Sometimes he brings chefs on the road to ensure he is eating healthily. Sleep is another priority, although there is a limit to what Zappala can do, given that Tecca is a teenager. There will definitely be times when Tec wants to go to the studio until 8am, Zappala sighs. I say: That may not make the most sense, because youve got a show tomorrow at 1pm. Its about trying to instil routine in him.

Fans pay their respects to Nipsey Hussle at the spot where he was murdered. Photograph: David McNew/Getty

But young rappers can face just as much pressure from outside the industry: The environments where these kids come from its not a fairytale lifestyle, says Taylor Maglin, who discovered Wopo and managed him until his death. Its a war zone, you know? Rivals get created, enemies get created. He believes that Wopo was murdered by disaffected members of a rival gang, who were envious of his success. (Wopo was allegedly a member of the Hill District gang 11 Hunnit, and was name-checked in a police indictment shortly after his death.)

XXXTentacions lawyer, David Bogenschutz, says the rapper had been concerned that someone would kidnap or kill him. He was generating money and notoriety. The day XXXTentacion was shot, it is believed he was stalked from his bank to the motorcycle dealership.

The rap game isnt like any other industry, says producer Jimmy Duval, who worked with XXX. There are a lot of guns and bullets flying around.

Smiley says that hip-hops relationships with drugs has changed absolutely. Earlier generations of rappers used drugs as a tool to accrue wealth, speaking about selling them as a way out of poverty, rather than using narcotics themselves (bar weed and alcohol). Once success arrived, drugs were used as a social signifier: music videos depicting tables groaning with bottles of Hennessy and cocaine-dusted mirrors. That reality has shifted to a more flagrant form of glamorisation.

A turning point came at the turn of the 2010s, when rapper Juicy J helped popularise lean, then the drug of choice in Houstons chopped and screwed music scene. An addictive and dangerous concoction of soda, candy and prescription cough mixture containing codeine, references to lean oozed into rap: Lil Wayne celebrates it, Young Thug freely drinks it during interviews, and Juice WRLD said he was inspired to try lean after listening to Future. Roddy Ricchs hit track The Box, currently the US No 1, has an anthemic chorus with a line about drinking lean to get lazy.

Rappers also began hitting party drugs such as MDMA and cocaine, as well as the prescription drugs OxyContin, Xanax and Percocet. Future celebrates molly, Perocets in his 2015 smash Mask Off. (That is a horrible combination of drugs, says Duval of Mask Off: The whole hook is you having a fucking heart attack.) The rapper Lil Pump posed with a Xanax-shaped cake to celebrate reaching 1 million followers on Instagram, a particularly brain-dead stunt given that counterfeit prescription drugs containing fentanyl have been blamed for the 10-fold increase in opioid-related deaths in the US between 2013 and 2018.

A culture of performative excess began to strangle the scene, viewed through the panopticon of social media, which encourages risk-taking behaviour, says Smiley: You have to be on 24/7, because everything is about likes, shares and counting how many followers you have. Thureson posted videos of himself drinking lean on Instagram; when his parents confronted him, he claimed it was purple Gatorade. He told me it was just the culture, his mum, Judy, says. Peep posed with prescription pills on his tongue hours before he died.

Braden L Morgan, known as producer Nedarb Nagrom, was Peeps roommate for three years. He believes Peep abused drugs to alleviate the pressures of touring, which he hated, and that hangers-on offering him drugs made things worse. He was really nice and would say yes to everything, so hed do whatever anyone offered him. And as he got more popular, more people wanted to be his friend, so they gave him the stuff more. He calls Peeps death a horrible accident. He got unlucky. I have no doubt that if he hadnt passed away, he was going to chill out.

Lil Tecca performs at the Rolling Loud festival in New York City. Photograph: Steven Ferdman/Getty

After so many deaths, a brutal comedown. After Peep died, a lot of people stopped partying every day, says Morgan. He has seen drug use tail off among the young rappers he produces; Lil Pump and Smokepurpp announced they were quitting Xanax following Peeps death. The younger kids dont do stuff as much, because they see all the shit that happened in the last few years. For those who do still indulge, drug-testing kits are becoming common. No one was testing drugs before Peep died, says Morgan.

There are promising indications that the rap scene is beginning to course-correct. Theres enough of a bad taste in everyones mouth that saying, go pop a molly doesnt feel right now, says Duval. The backlash has been rumbling for a while: J Coles 2018 diss track 1985 was scathing about SoundCloud rappers. They wanna see you dab, they wanna see you pop a pill / They wanna see you tatted from your face to your heels.

As the narcotic aesthetic becomes less fashionable, rappers are becoming more mindful of the message they are sending to fans. Artists including Isaiah Rashad, Lucki, Travis Scott and Danny Brown have spoken out about prescription drug addiction. Sacramento rapper Mozzy has urged his followers to quit lean. Lucki, considered by some to be the father of SoundCloud rap, talks in Freewave 3 about his mother looking up the effect of lean on his kidneys. Even Lil Xan, easily most cavalier artist in this group, has considered changing his name.

As Miller sang in his biggest hit, it is time to finally start practising some self-care. But the burden should not fall to individuals: as labels and management cash in on this wave, they must take greater responsibility for artist wellbeing. You have to prioritise their health and happiness before music or fame, says Zappala. Its tough being a successful artist, not knowing whether the people around you have genuine intentions.

His goals for Tecca are clear. Im going to develop Tec into an artist who has a 10, 15-year career, says Zappala. When hes 30, hes still going to be relevant.

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It was Britains answer to The Wire. But the gang drama was dead until the rapper stepped in and pitched it to Netflix. Its stars and writer talk grime, gentrification and Boris Johnsons Britain

I told them I was on my way out to meet some singer called Drake, says writer Ronan Bennett, recalling the unlikely story of how he went out for dinner with the Canadian rapper and somehow managed to make himself seem less cool in front of his children. Drake was a fan of Top Boy, Bennetts Channel 4 drama about the lives of drug dealers and residents on a fictional Hackney estate called Summerhouse. He had been recommended it while on tour and loved it so much, he began posting stills from the show on Instagram with clumsy attempts at London slang (real bod man). When he found out it had been cancelled, he decided to bring it back by teaming up with Bennett and pitching it to Netflix.

The pair arranged a dinner in London to thrash out a plan much to the disbelief of Bennetts kids, who had to inform him he was about to meet one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. My children were like, Whaaaaat? he says. But honestly, I didnt know who he was.

Luckily for Bennett, Netflix and quite a few other people did. He was into the shows music, says Kane Robinson AKA Kano, the grime MC who starred in the original series as Sully, a duplicitous but driven dealer. It wasnt a shock that Drake liked it. What was more shocking was that when he posted about Top Boy, the reaction was mad. Youd wake up and have hundreds of messages.

He understands the culture and saw that [the show] needed to come back, adds Ashley Walters, who plays Dushane, the titular Top Boy who rises from low-level street dealer to potential East End kingpin. We were all on the same page it just happens that hes Drake.

Drake fronted a pitch to Netflix in LA and an hour later they had a deal. But Top Boy wasnt the easiest sell. Originally pitched to the BBC as a one-off TV film, the Beeb balked at the language and its stark gang-related subject matter, so Bennett shopped it to Channel 4, which commissioned it and greenlit a second season. The Independent called it Britains answer to The Wire, while Vice dedicated an oral history to the making of it. The show got a mixed reception from residents of Hackney when the Observer screened it to youth groups, but it was lauded by critics for its brutal portrayal of life in east London just after the 2011 riots.

Top girl Letitia Wright in the original series. Photograph: Tristan Hopkins/Channel 4

Bennett cant remember the reason Channel 4 gave for cancelling, but it felt abrupt and left him shocked with a storyline for a third series that looked destined never to see the light of day. I didnt ever think it was going to come back, says Robinson. It looked like it was a non-starter.

But despite the cancellation, Top Boy didnt disappear completely. Both Robinson and Walters were asked about it incessantly as it began to find another audience, first on DVD and then on Netflix. It became a touchstone in the music world, with such grime acts as Skepta working references into his Mercury prize-winning album, Konnichiwa. It proved to be a hothouse of young black British talent: Michaela Coel had a bit-part in the original series, as did a pre-Black Panther Letitia Wright, who stood out as an ethically compromised young gang member. Other grime MCs, including Scorcher and Bashy, also featured before going on to get parts in films. In 2016, rumours that the show was coming back began circulating. Then, during his sold-out run at the O2 in London this April, Drake played a trailer confirming its return.

The UK has changed a lot since Top Boys debut in 2011, especially in the way gangs are viewed. The rise in knife crime has become part of the national conversation, with the media reporting on such concepts as county lines, in which drug gangs send young members to rural locations to drum up new trade. Drug dealers have never been more under the microscope, especially after 2018, when there were 135 homicides in London, 76 of them stabbings. So was there any hesitation in bringing back Sully and Dushane, dealers who manipulate young kids, murder rivals and use knives?

No, says Bennett without missing a beat. I think its important to bring it back in that context. Why? I consider myself a highly political person in everything I do, says the writer, who up until recently was the chair of his local Labour party. But I never beat the audience over the head with a message. However, I dont think anyone who watches Top Boy would fail to realise that the answer to the question Why is knife crime happening? is simple. Its poverty, exclusion and its racism. Thats why these kids feel completely outside the norms of a society that cold-shoulders them, that closes doors on them, that looks down on them, that despises them. And then its a spiral.

Theyre denied any kind of self-respect. Where are they going to find that respect? They need to feel good about themselves and they need to find that value somewhere. They create a different value system and its one that is deeply, deeply fucked up.

Belated return Walters and Robinson in the forthcoming third season. Photograph: Netflix/PA

Robinson and Walters think there is an urgent need to bring a gang drama to the screen, believing the new series will provide a vital window into a world that is still misunderstood. The medias attention [to gangs] is on another level, says Robinson. But who are we if were not talking about the current climate? What picture do people want us to paint? Its not a true story but there are a lot of truths within it.

Whoever is outside looking in, says Walters, should see this as correspondence. Youre getting the people who are down there at street level reporting to the rest of the world. Thats what I see Top Boy as, thats what I see Kanes music as. Its important for people to listen and take time to watch whats going on in these shows, especially the ones like Top Boy that are painting an accurate picture.

Poverty has a smell. Its cheap, bad food. Its damp, unwashed clothes Ronan Bennett Photograph: Antonio Olmos

That picture isnt pretty. In the new series, which will launch on Netflix in the autumn, theres a glimpse of the harsh life inside British prisons, where disagreements from the street continue to fester. There are young men still children, really forced to look after their families and turn to drug-dealing to provide. An immigration story surfaces that has echoes of the Windrush scandal.

Top Boy has always been about showing the wider view of how societal pressures add to the chaos of street life. In the first two series, we see a salon owner and the manager of a chippy struggling to stay open as rents increase. A mother with mental health issues has to deal with her own problems and the needs of her son, who is perilously close to getting caught up in the drug game. For Bennett, thats all a way to paint a fuller picture of life in breadline Britain.

Until recently, wed go around canvassing [for Labour] and you could literally smell poverty, says Bennett. It has a smell. Its cheap, bad food. Its damp and unwashed clothes. When they open that door, you think, Would I like this life? No. Thats why this happens and thats what Top Boy shows.

Walters believes gentrification plays a part. I think its one of the reasons why a lot of knife crime is happening, he says. What were not talking about is how people are being displaced and how somewhere like Croydon has one of the highest knife crime rates because all the kids from Peckham, Brixton and the surrounding areas were being moved there which created war, essentially, because all the kids were being mixed up together.

Then there are middle-class drug users, who have been accused of fuelling the gang problem. A well-off couple appear in season three is that who Bennett is skewering? Ive seen the whole debate about middle-class drug use, says Bennett, who adds that he has never taken or bought drugs. That obviously happens. I guess thats something people have to confront, but for me the answer is decriminalisation. Nothing else works. Would that include all drugs? Yes. Im in favour of decriminalisation but with regulation. I would say to my kids, Please dont do this. I think its bad for your health and taking drugs is really risky. But this is the way to make it less risky.

Bennett points out that in the Shoreditch restaurant were sitting in, there are probably people who have bought or sold drugs that day. Are they fuelling knife crime? he asks, looking around. I guess. But in a bigger way, its the entire apparatus that weve built around the so-called war on drugs that is responsible.

Theres always been a bleak, nihilistic thread running through Top Boy, as young people without much hope struggle to simply get by. Can Bennett see things getting better in real life under a Boris Johnson government, with the hardline Priti Patel in the Home Office? No, not remotely. If you handpicked a bunch of characters in Britain that have less intelligence, less sympathy and less understanding of the kind of social and economic backgrounds that our characters come from, you could not do a worse job. There is no hope that they will have any understanding of what it would take to solve this problem. They are unbelievably out of touch.

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As Australias first trial for psychedelic therapy for terminally ill patients gets under way, a growing movement says it could also help other conditions

In August 2016 I went to New York for the first time. On the second evening, as the sun slipped behind the building across the street, I was sitting on a long couch on the top floor of an old church. All around me instruments were scattered on the floor singing bowls, tuning forks, rainsticks, Tibetan bells. At the foot of a wall carpeted completely in moss, dripping like the jungle in the baking heat, was a large bronze gong.

On the table in front of me two small ceramic bowls contained a capsule of 125mg of pure MDMA and a chilli guacamole with three grams of powdered magic mushrooms stirred through it. I eyed them nervously. I was terrified that I was going to lose my mind but I was more scared that nothing would happen at all, that I was too broken for even this radical treatment.

Id left Australia to take psychedelics with a therapist. Almost a decade of regular talk therapies for depression had done little to explain why I still felt so numb, trapped and terrified. A few months earlier Id tracked down a guy online who said that, while it wasnt a magic bullet, he might have something that would help. I cant name him because its still completely illegal.

He was sitting across from me and after Id swallowed the contents of both bowls he handed me a padded eye mask and suggested I lie back on the couch. I heard him move across the room in the steamy darkness as I tried to relax and focus on my breathing. Moments later I heard the first strange notes from the gong.

2016 was a breakthrough year for psychedelic therapy, not just for me. In May, a study from the Beckley Foundation in partnership with Imperial College London found that two-thirds of their participants with treatment-resistant depression were in remission a week after a therapy session with psilocybin, the active chemical in magic mushrooms. One participant said: I found I felt more connected, to myself, other people, nature, life in general. I felt alive, rather than distant and isolated and cut off.

In November 2016 two US university studies jointly published their findings: 80% of the terminally ill patients who had similar psilocybin sessions experienced significant reductions in depression and anxiety.

The following week the US Food and Drug Administration announced that it was approving the final phase of trials of psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using MDMA.

Meanwhile, in Australia nothing. At the end of 2015 Psychedelic Research in Science and Medicine (Prism), a non-profit research association formed in 2011, had its second application for a study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy knocked back by Deakin University. The email from the deputy vice chancellor for research said: The university will not engage in research that has the potential to damage its reputation as an ethical organisation.

Dr Martin Williams, president of Prism and a medicinal chemistry researcher at Monash University, got the message loud and clear. We realised then that it was going to be a hearts and minds operation on our behalf, that we were going to have to be an advocacy organisation and play the long game, he says.

The momentum has been building for decades overseas. In 1986 Rick Doblin, a trainee therapist with a PhD from the Harvard Kennedy school, founded the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (Maps) to overturn the decision by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to criminalise MDMA use. Initially a drug used in the 1970s by American therapists to enhance their clients feelings of trust and openness during sessions, MDMAs effects had become too popular to contain and, like LSD a couple of decades before, it broke through into wider culture leading to a blanket ban on recreation and research.

Doblin, a shambling sun-bear of a man with a perpetual smile, initially launched an appeal against the DEA decision through its own legal channels, and won. However, the DEA disregarded the ruling so Maps opted for medicalisation taking MDMA through several phases of clinical trials to establish its safety and therapeutic efficacy. I just knew from personal experience, from working with patients, that MDMA was so different from the way the government was trying to present it, so much better, that eventually the truth would come out, says Doblin. Did I think it would take 32 years? No.

It was only last year that the full results of six phase-two trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy were published, in Lancetand the Journal of Psychopharmacology. Of 107 patients with treatment-resistant PTSD who were administered the drug in two or three seven-hour sessions, with therapists, eye mask and music, 68% were in remission at the 12-month follow-up. Its about twice the success rate for the gold-standard treatment for PTSD: prolonged exposure therapy.

MDMAs therapeutic properties emerge from a combination of factors. Its most acute effect is to significantly dampen the activity of the amygdala, the part of our brain that regulates fear response. While it relieves anxiety and stress, MDMA also sharply increases the brains supply of serotonin and oxytocin, the neurotransmitters primarily responsible for mood regulation and social bonding.

A recent study in Nature suggested that MDMA can temporarily return the brain to an early development state of exuberant brain plasticity that fosters renewed social reward learning. The American psychiatrist Julie Holland says: You basically couldnt design a molecule that is better for therapy than MDMA.

A former firefighter, Ed Thompson, was overdosing nightly on a combination of booze and benzos when he entered a Maps trial in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. The trauma of losing nine colleagues as they fought a warehouse fire beside him, the worst firefighting loss in the US since 9/11, was compounded by a chronic illness afflicting his twin baby daughters.

My body felt like it was going to explode from the inside out … I was underwater and drowning, he told me last year. After three all-day MDMA sessions with two therapists beside him, he no longer met the criteria for PTSD. It was just an incredible time of healing.

In 2017 the US Food and Drug Administration declared MDMA a breakthrough therapy, and Doblin expects it to be a legal medicine in the US again by 2021. Phase-three trials have begun at 15 sites in the US, Canada and Israel and will roll out across Europe this year after agreement with the European Medicines Agency.

In Australia a proposal for an MDMA trial with just four participants is slowly moving through the approvals process, this time at Edith Cowan University in Perth. Stephen Bright, senior lecturer in addiction studies at the university and vice president of Prism, says it supports the trial, and the wider community is increasingly open to the idea. The public are generally receptive, he says. All the stuff Im talking about depression, trauma, addiction they have been touched by in some way. At the end of the day, the evidence says that psychedelic therapy is effective at treating a range of conditions.

Nigel Strauss, a Melbourne psychiatrist and trauma specialist who worked with Prism on its failed proposal, says the way psychedelic therapy works is a challenge to prevailing medical assumptions. Psychedelic drugs are a whole change of perspective, he says. These are meaning drugs, and the whole concept of meaning eludes people and they think its hocus-pocus. These are concepts that dont fit easily into medical science at the moment particularly in this country.

But something has shifted. In January St Vincents hospital in Melbourne announced that Australias first trial of psilocybin-assisted therapy for 30 people with terminal illnesses will start in coming months. It is believed the mind-expanding and mystical properties of the psychedelic experience might be especially effective at relieving the existential angst and hopelessness that often accompanies a terminal diagnosis. When youre working with psychedelics you can reliably expect these deeply embodied transformational moments, says Rosalind Watts, a clinical psychologist working on the Beckley/Imperial trial.

Williams, who is co-investigator on the St Vincents study, which Prism has helped organise, says what has been called the psychedelic renaissance overseas is more like the dawning of a new age in Australia, where there is no history of psychedelic research. Its definitely a major step forward because as long as we achieve positive results from the research, then we expect to move that into therapeutic practice in a period of time perhaps five to 10 years, he says.

Not everyone is so enthusiastic. Sandy McFarlane, the director of the centre for traumatic stress studies at the University of Adelaide, wonders if psychedelics researchers have been drinking the Kool-Aid: Adequate evidence from carefully controlled trials is yet to be published, particularly by individuals who are not advocates of the therapy. Let the data speak for itself as with any treatment.

Gillinder Bedi, a senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne who has previously run US studies of the pharmacology of MDMA, agrees that some advocates are a bit much: They are the true believers. Scientists are a little bit uncomfortable with the language that gets used. I dont think that [organisations like Maps] understand the effect of coming from the counterculture on the people outside it.

For Bedi their findings are almost too good to be true: The results Ive seen are unique the effects are really clear. Its just that theyve been in small studies and theyve been conducted by people who have massively vested interests in the whole thing Theres a part of me that goes, Why did your data end up so neat and nice? Im not sceptical about the rigour of the science, Im just confused more than anything.

But Bedi insists that contrary to its reputation MDMA is safe to use therapeutically: Its pretty clear now that we can administer it in a controlled environment with appropriate supervision pretty safely. Psychedelics studies exclude people with a history of psychosis or mania, as well as those with certain medical conditions that the drug effects could exacerbate. If its given to people who are well screened beforehand, those risks can be controlled.

The Prism team was cagey about the St Vincents study until the moment it was announced, but Williams has noticeably relaxed his attitude discussing psychedelics in the Australian context. I think theres been a broad shift in the public discourse, which has been this ongoing process, probably since the results of the clinical trials in the US and Europe were first communicated, he says. Its thanks to the great groundwork of Maps and others overseas that were at the point we are now at all.

A new non-profit called Mind Medicines Australia launches next month to coordinate training more therapists to meet the potential demand. Williams and Strauss are planning a study of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, modelled on UK research.

For more than a decade, the Beckley Foundation has developed groundbreaking psychedelic research in partnership with Imperial College London. They produced the first brain scans of the LSD and psilocybin experience which suggest that, rather than amplifying neural activity as expected, psychedelics appear to selectively inhibit the default mode network, which regulates executive brain function like a disciplinarian teacher. When psychedelics take it out of the picture for a period, a whole bunch of new connections and neural activity fires up like exuberant children, allowing a wider range of phenomena to reach conscious awareness. Brain scans of long-term meditators have shown the same pattern.

The novel neural connections facilitated in the psychedelic state can lead to lasting changes. A 2018 Beckley/Imperial study using data from their previous depression trial measured significant increases in the personality domain of openness three months after the single high dose of psilocybin.

It replicates similar findings from Johns Hopkins University in the US. Albert Garcia-Romeu, who is leading another Hopkins psilocybin study, told me that openness goes hand-in-hand with reductions in symptoms such as rigid negative thinking. [It] has shown association with overall happiness and quality of life, so in that regard I think it can be an important piece of the puzzle in terms of psychedelics therapeutic potentials, he says.

Ian Roullier, a participant in the Beckley study of treatment-resistant depression, described how he experienced it: Depression is a very narrow, restricted state and taking psilocybin really helps you to zoom out a lot more I felt a lightness within myself and more of a freedom. Like MDMA for PTSD, psilocybin has just been given breakthrough therapy status for treatment-resistant depression and large-scale trials are being rushed through across Europe.

For me, about an hour and a half after I lay down in New York, I took off the eye mask and sat up to a world transformed. For as long as I could remember there had been a wall of glass between the world and me, trapping me in a numb limbo that a litany of talk therapy and medications couldnt touch.

Like magic, the wall was gone. Everything I looked at had a new clarity and immediacy as I drank it in. It was as though an iron knot of tension in my forehead, which contracted my whole body in its clenching grip, had suddenly dissolved. I felt calm, confident and connected. I didnt feel like I was tripping I felt like myself for the first time in years. It was the purest relief Id ever known.

Almost three years later Im back living in Fremantle but its all changed. I had spent past Western Australian summers in bed, staring at the wall with the blinds down. This year Im up at five most mornings making the most of the rising sun: gym, swim, long walk on the beach, and in the studio by eight this morning to finish off my edits before uni. Id always wanted to write but the words wouldnt come, and while I still have to work bloody hard to keep the show on the road, its all flowing now.

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Lead prosecutor will make decision in the near future on whether to charge anyone over Princes death

A toxicology report from Princes autopsy, obtained by the Associated Press, shows he had what multiple experts called an exceedingly high concentration of fentanyl in his body when he died.

Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on 21 April, 2016. Public data released six weeks after his death showed he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin.

A confidential toxicology report provides some insight into just how much fentanyl was in his system. Experts who are not connected to the Prince investigation said the numbers leave no doubt that fentanyl killed him.

The amount in his blood is exceedingly high, even for somebody who is a chronic pain patient on fentanyl patches, said Dr Lewis Nelson, chairman of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey medical school. He called the fentanyl concentrations a pretty clear smoking gun.

The report says the concentration of fentanyl in Princes blood was 67.8 micrograms per litre. Fatalities have been documented in people with blood levels ranging from three to 58 micrograms per litre, the report says.

It adds that the level of fentanyl in Princes liver was 450 micrograms per kilogram, and notes liver concentrations greater than 69 micrograms per kilogram seem to represent overdose or fatal toxicity cases.

There was also what experts called a potentially lethal amount of fentanyl in Princes stomach. Dr Charles McKay, president of the American College of Medical Toxicology, said the findings suggest Prince took the drug orally, while fentanyl in the blood and liver suggest it had some time to circulate before he died.

Experts say there is no lethal level at which fentanyl can kill. A person who takes prescription opioids for a long time builds up a tolerance, and a dose that could kill one person might help another.

Search warrants released about a year after Princes death showed authorities found numerous pills in various containers around his home. A lab report shows many of the pills tested positive for fentanyl. Information released publicly indicates the source of those drugs has not been determined.

Last week, the lead prosecutor in the county where Prince died said he was reviewing law enforcement reports and would make a decision in the near future on whether to charge anyone.

Minnesota officials have announced plans to install a tribute fence inside Paisley Park, Princes home and studio, in preparation for fans returning on the second anniversary of his death. The fence will display fan messages and artefacts archived by Paisley Park.

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The New York rapper, who discussed drug use in his music, posted a video online hours before his death

Lil Peep, a fast-rising rapper whose emotional tracks charted depression and drug use, has died aged 21 while on tour in Arizona. His UK representative confirmed the news to the Guardian.

Gustav hr, who grew up in Long Beach, New York, was found unresponsive by his manager on his tour bus. In a video hr posted online hours before his death, he said he had taken prescription drugs and other substances, saying: Im good, Im not sick.

Sgt Pete Dugan of the police department in Tucson stated to CNN: After speaking with people on scene and going into the tour bus… there was evidence of a possible drug overdose. He added that there was no sign of any kind of foul play.

The rap world has paid tribute to him, with Diplo writing on Twitter that hr had so much more to do man he was constantly inspiring me, and fellow producer Marshmello writing: Peep was the nicest person. Hanging out with him, talking to him about music, the song ideas we were going to do together and touring was so amazing.

Chart-topping rapper Post Malone said hr was a great friend to me and a great person. your music changed the world and itll never be the same.

Following a string of self-released mixtapes that blended cold trap production with highly emotional, soul-searching emo lyricism, and earned him a cult following, Lil Peep released his debut album Come Over When Youre Sober (Part One) in August this year. His eye-catching dress sense and numerous tattoos also earned him attention in the fashion world he did catwalk shows for the likes of Vlone, and Mario Testino photographed him for V magazine.

Sarah Stennett, the CEO of First Access Entertainment, a company who partnered with the rapper last year, said I am shocked and heartbroken. I do not believe Peep wanted to die, this is so tragic. He had huge ambition and his career was flourishing […] I have spoken to his mother and she asked me to convey that she is very, very proud of him and everything he was able to achieve in his short life.

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This week, rapper Lil Peep died of a suspected overdose. Hip-hop has always been open about recreational drug use but how did constant references to depression and prescription painkillers move into the mainstream?

Pop a Perky just to start up / Pop two cups of purple just to warm up Quavos lyrics swim through the slow, narcotised production of Slippery, a track by rap trio Migos that has become one of the genres biggest hits of the year with nearly 150m views on YouTube. For the uninitiated, Perky is Percocet, a painkiller made up of paracetamol and the opioid oxycodone; purple is a drink made from codeine-based cough syrup. Quavos drug use is as improvisatory as it is blithe, and is just one example of a rap scene where substance abuse has become normalised.

This permissiveness has claimed a talented victim in Lil Peep, a New York-born 21-year-old rapper who died this week of a suspected overdose. On his Instagram in the hours leading up to his death, he said he was taking magic mushrooms and honey (a kind of super-concentrated version of marijuana, turned into a wax); another picture sees him with an unidentified substance broken into pieces on his tongue. He is also filmed dropping bars of Xanax, the anxiety medication that has become perhaps the most fashionable drug in 2017s rap scene, into his mouth.


Why is there an opioid crisis in America?

Almost 100 people are dying every day across America from opioid overdoses more than car crashes and shootings combined. The majority of these fatalities reveal widespread addiction to powerful prescription painkillers. The crisis unfolded in the mid-90s when the US pharmaceutical industry began marketing legal narcotics, particularly OxyContin, to treat everyday pain. This slow-release opioid was vigorously promoted to doctors and, amid lax regulation and slick sales tactics, people were assured it was safe. But the drug was akin to luxury morphine, doled out like super aspirin, and highly addictive. What resulted was a commercial triumph and a public health tragedy. Belated efforts to rein in distribution fueled a resurgence of heroin and the emergence of a deadly, black market version of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The crisis is so deep because it affects all races, regions and incomes

Lil Peep also rapped about drug-taking: I hear voices in my head, they tellin me to call it quits / I found some Xanax in my bed, I took that shit, went back to sleep; Sniffin cocaine cause I didnt have no Actavis / Smokin propane with my clique and the bad bitches; Gettin high cause my life dont mean shit to me. His vision of drug-taking was not without pleasure, but certainly a means of escape as well as straightforward hedonism a marked change in rap culture.

Three drugs are most commonly associated with hip-hop: alcohol, weed and crack. The former is often used merely as a straightforward wealth signifier: Hennessy and Courvoisier cognac, Cristal champagne, Patrn tequila and Grey Goose vodka. Blended with a gin and juice, Snoop Dogg hymned the relaxing properties of marijuana (laaaaaid back…) while Cypress Hill synthesised its paranoia with the creepy malevolence of B-Reals voice.

Crack cocaine was a different prospect: the rappers never got high on their own supply. On Clipses Grindin, Pusha T says that four and half [ounces] will get you in the game and that he is known in the neighbourhood as Mr Sniffles, but his laser-precise flow suggests sobriety and business nous. On the 2014 mega-hit Trap Queen, Fetty Wap introduces his girl to his stove hes not showing off his new Aga, but rather where they will cook crack together. The songs pop beauty conjures a couple revelling not in the drugs high, but the emancipation it gives them as a result of cash from its sale. By shamelessly leveraging the glamour of criminality, these rappers appeal to prurient middle-class audiences (including a sizeable white demographic) and by pointing a route out of poverty, they appeal to working-class ones too.

Around the turn of the century, rappers increasingly started dabbling in designer drugs, too, particularly ecstasy. Eminem recorded two songs from The Slim Shady LP while high on it, while mentor Dr Dre suggested on Bad Intentions, take an X pill, how the sex feel? A little-noted detail is that the civic euphoria of Jay-Zs Empire State of Mind is powered by the drug: MDMA got you feeling like a champion / The city never sleeps, better slip you an Ambien. Kanye West sees a whole party melting like Dali after dropping molly, raps now-favoured name for ecstasy (also namechecked by the likes of Tyga, Rick Ross, Rihanna and, infamously, Miley Cyrus). In their songs at least, there are no comedowns, only the dizzy, meaningless highs.

But at the same time, prescription drug addiction took hold of the US last year, 91 people a day died of opioid overdoses. Thanks to a robust marketing campaign, sales of the opioid painkiller OxyContin grew from $48m (36.5m) in 1996 to $1.1bn in 2000; in 2012, 282m prescriptions were made for it a bottle for every American. Its popularity has tailed off slightly, but other prescription drugs often used recreationally have joined it, arguably in part thanks to the inadvertent marketing by rappers, who have swapped uppers for downers.

Lil Pump with a drug-shaped cake. Photograph: Jerritt Clark/WireImage

The attention-deficit medicine Adderall has been rapped about by Danny Brown and sung about by Justin Bieber; as well as Migoss championing of the aforementioned Percocet, Futures Mask Off, another huge rap hit this year, has a chorus that runs Percocet, molly, Percocet.

But its Xanax the drug Lil Peep boasted about taking six of in a video hours before his death that has become the most prevalent. Each pill is an oblong divided into five chunks, with X A N A X imprinted on each; as a design it has real visual impact that enhances its appeal. A$AP Mob-affiliated DJ crew Cozy Boys were formerly known as Blackout Boys, and used Xanax bars as their logo; current hot property Lil Pump celebrated getting a million Instagram followers with a Xanax-shaped cake. Etsy is weirdly full of Xanax jewellery. Guesting on iLoveMakonnens track Tuesday, even the clean-cut Drake admits to having Xans in an Advil bottle before swiftly reassuring us theyre just for that nights boo: I dont take them shits but you do.

Xanax now underpins an entire subgenre of rap: sometimes dubbed SoundCloud rap, as many of its progenitors upload it to that music streaming service, it is characterised by a fug-headed mumbling flow; raw, lo-fi production full of clouds of noise; and constant references to depression and prescription painkillers. Along with rappers such as Yung Lean, $uicideboy$ and Lil Xan, Lil Peep was at the heart of this scene; it has moved into the mainstream, too, with Lil Uzi Vert, whose track XO Tour Life features a couple discussing suicide. Spotify caught on, dedicating a playlist to the style called Tear Drop its top 10 is now full of Lil Peep, with a tribute reading: Gone too soon We will always remember you.

This style is also called emo, but where that word has previously been used to describe punks who analysed their own emotions with a forensic level of detail, here the emotion is underanalysed: these rappers feel bad, but theyre not sure why.

The fact that some of them are unable to verbalise what theyre feeling, leads them to fall back on rap cliches around bitches and clips, and simply compounds the overall feeling of desperation. This is an inevitable cultural byproduct of the US, where the marketplace has been allowed to triumph, and silence moral concerns about the availability of these drugs. Because theyre profitable, people are allowed to just get on with self-medicating, without trying to understand the reasons for their sadness.

But perhaps these rappers ennui goes wider than mere Xanax, and into a numbing effect of our wider culture. One of the most chilling aspects to Lil Peeps death is that his cries for help were so public, and yet went so unanswered perhaps as a result of the paradoxically distancing effect of social media. He wrote on Instagram hours before he died: I need help but not when I have my pills but thats temporary one day maybe I wont die young and Ill be happy? But were inured to see Instagram as performative, not real, and its inherently aspirational vibe along with the sheer visual noise of its scrolling feed drowns out individual torment. That Spotify named its playlist Tear Drop, selling back these artists real pain, doesnt help.

Rap has always told its drug stories in more than just its lyrics. Snoop conjured the sensuality of his own buzz through his very vocal cadence and languorous G-funk backing, as well as his words. In Houstons chopped and screwed scene, rap tracks are radically slowed down, designed to match and enhance the corporeal sluggishness that comes from drinking codeine cough syrup. And its the same with this new breed of rapper: their deadened flow and sad, anxious production replicates the anti-high of Xanax in sound. It can be hard to tell which of them are genuinely troubled and which are like the fake gangstas of the crack era trading off the glamour of drugs and pain. But the tens of millions of streams theyre getting mean it doesnt matter: their popularity shows that people are hearing their own pain, fellow participants in a culture that has been left to manage its own wellbeing.

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German writer Norman Ohlers astonishing account of methamphetamine addiction in the Third Reich changes what we know about the second world war

The German writer Norman Ohler lives on the top floor of a 19th-century apartment building on the south bank of the river Spree in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Visiting him there is a vertiginous experience. For one thing, he works and likes to entertain visitors in what he calls his writing tower, a flimsy-seeming, glass-walled turret perched right on the very edge of the roof. (Look down, if you dare, and you will see his little boat moored far below.) For another, there is the fact that from this vantage point it is possible to discern two Berlins, one thrusting and breezy, the other spectral and grey. To our left, busy with traffic, is the Oberbaum Bridge, where there was once a cold war checkpoint, and beyond it the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, its doleful length rudely interrupted by the block of luxury flats that went up in 2013. As for the large building immediately opposite, these days its the home of Universal Music. Not so very long ago, however, it was the GDRs egg storage facility.

Does all this press on Ohler as he sits at his desk, the light bouncing off the screen of his laptop? Is it ghostly sometimes? Yes, it is strange, he says, smiling at my giddiness. But then he has long believed in a certain kind of time travel. I remember the 90s. The wall had just come down, and I was experimenting with party drugs like ecstasy and LSD. The techno scene had started up, and there were all these empty buildings in the east where the youth [from east and west] would meet for the first time. They were hardcore, some of those guys from the east they didnt understand foreigners at all and the ecstasy helped them to lose some of their hatred and suspicion. Sometimes, then, you could step into a room, and you could just see the past. Of course, its not like that now. I dont take drugs any more. But I can remember it, and maybe that was why I was able to write this book.

Norman Ohler photographed in Berlin last week. Photograph: MalteJaeger/laif

The book in question is The Total Rush or, to use its superior English title, Blitzed which reveals the astonishing and hitherto largely untold story of the Third Reichs relationship with drugs, including cocaine, heroin, morphine and, above all, methamphetamines (aka crystal meth), and of their effect not only on Hitlers final days the Fhrer, by Ohlers account, was an absolute junkie with ruined veins by the time he retreated to the last of his bunkers but on the Wehrmachts successful invasion of France in 1940. Published in Germany last year, where it became a bestseller, it has since been translated into 18 languages, a fact that delights Ohler, but also amazes him.

Its not only that he is as Der Spiegel helpfully pointed out a non-historian (the author of three novels and the co-writer of the Wim Wenders film Palermo Shooting, this is his first work of nonfiction). Its that there was anything new to be said at all. Arrange all the books that have been written about the Nazis end to end and theyd be longer than the Spree.

I guess drugs werent a priority for the historians, he says. A crazy guy like me had to come along. Still, crazy or not, he has done a remarkable job. If Blitzed is gripping, it is also convincing. Ian Kershaw, the British historian who is probably the worlds leading authority on Hitler and Nazi Germany, has described it as a serious piece of scholarship.

Unlikely as it sounds, it was Ohlers friend, the Berlin DJ Alexander Kramer, who first put him on to the idea. Hes like a medium for that time, says Ohler. He has this huge library, and he knows all the music from the 20s. One night he said to me: Do you know the massive role drugs played in National Socialism? I told him that I didnt, but that it sounded true and I knew immediately it would be the subject of my next book.

His plan was to write a novel, but with his first visit to the archives that changed completely. There he found the papers of Dr Theodor Morell, Hitlers personal physician, previously only a minor character in most studies of the Fhrer. I knew then that this was already better than fiction. In the months that followed, supported by the late, great German historian of the Third Reich Hans Mommsen, Ohler travelled from archive to archive, carefully gathering his material and how much of it there was! He didnt use half of what he found. Look at this, he says, jumping up. When he returns, in his hand is a copy of a letter from Martin Bormann, Hitlers private secretary, in which he suggests that the medication Morell is giving the Fhrer needs to be regulated for the sake of his increasingly wobbly health.

The story Ohler tells begins in the days of the Weimar Republic, when Germanys pharmaceutical industry was thriving the country was a leading exporter both of opiates, such as morphine, and of cocaine and drugs were available on every street corner. It was during this period that Hitlers inner circle established an image of him as an unassailable figure who was willing to work tirelessly on behalf of his country, and who would permit no toxins not even coffee to enter his body.

He is all genius and body, reported one of his allies in 1930. And he mortifies that body in a way that would shock people like us! He doesnt drink, he practically only eats vegetables, and he doesnt touch women. No wonder that when the Nazis seized power in 1933, seductive poisons were immediately outlawed. In the years that followed, drug users would be deemed criminally insane; some would be killed by the state using a lethal injection; others would be sent to concentration camps. Drug use also began to be associated with Jews. The Nazi partys office of racial purity claimed that the Jewish character was essentially drug-dependent. Both needed to be eradicated from Germany.

Some drugs, however, had their uses, particularly in a society hell bent on keeping up with the energetic Hitler (Germany awake! the Nazis ordered, and the nation had no choice but to snap to attention). A substance that could integrate shirkers, malingerers, defeatists and whiners into the labour market might even be sanctioned. At a company called Temmler in Berlin, Dr Fritz Hauschild, its head chemist, inspired by the successful use of the American amphetamine Benzedrine at the 1936 Olympic Games, began trying to develop his own wonder drug and a year later, he patented the first German methyl-amphetamine. Pervitin, as it was known, quickly became a sensation, used as a confidence booster and performance enhancer by everyone from secretaries to actors to train drivers (initially, it could be bought without prescription). It even made its way into confectionery. Hildebrand chocolates are always a delight, went the slogan. Women were recommended to eat two or three, after which they would be able to get through their housework in no time at all with the added bonus that they would also lose weight, given the deleterious effect Pervitin had on the appetite. Ohler describes it as National Socialism in pill form.

Workers at the Temmler factory in Berlin produced 35m tablets of Pervitin for the German army and Luftwaffe in 1940. Photograph: Temmler Pharma GmbH & Co KG, Marburg

Naturally, it wasnt long before soldiers were relying on it too. In Blitzed, Ohler reproduces a letter sent in 1939 by Heinrich Bll, the future Nobel laureate, from the frontline to his parents back at home, in which he begs them for Pervitin, the only way he knew to fight the great enemy sleep. In Berlin, it was the job of Dr Otto Ranke, the director of the Institute for General and Defence Physiology, to protect the Wehrmachts animated machines ie its soldiers from wear, and after conducting some tests he concluded that Pervitin was indeed excellent medicine for exhausted soldiers. Not only did it make sleep unnecessary (Ranke, who would himself become addicted to the drug, observed that he could work for 50 hours on Pervitin without feeling fatigued), it also switched off inhibitions, making fighting easier, or at any rate less terrifying.

In 1940, as plans were made to invade France through the Ardennes mountains, a stimulant decree was sent out to army doctors, recommending that soldiers take one tablet per day, two at night in short sequence, and another one or two tablets after two or three hours if necessary. The Wehrmacht ordered 35m tablets for the army and Luftwaffe, and the Temmler factory increased production. The likes of Bll, its fair to say, wouldnt need to ask their parents for Pervitin again.

Was Blitzkrieg, then, largely the result of the Wehrmachts reliance on crystal meth? How far is Ohler willing to go with this? He smiles. Well, Mommsen always told me not to be mono-causal. But the invasion of France was made possible by the drugs. No drugs, no invasion. When Hitler heard about the plan to invade through Ardennes, he loved it [the allies were massed in northern Belgium]. But the high command said: its not possible, at night we have to rest, and they [the allies] will retreat and we will be stuck in the mountains. But then the stimulant decree was released, and that enabled them to stay awake for three days and three nights. Rommel [who then led one of the panzer divisions] and all those tank commanders were high and without the tanks, they certainly wouldnt have won.

Pervitin: Nazi Germanys drug of choice.

Thereafter, drugs were regarded as an effective weapon by high command, one that could be deployed against the greatest odds. In 1944-45, for instance, when it was increasingly clear that victory against the allies was all but impossible, the German navy developed a range of one-man U-boats; the fantastical idea was that these pint-sized submarines would make their way up the Thames estuary. But since they could only be used if the lone marines piloting them could stay awake for days at a time, Dr Gerhard Orzechowski, the head pharmacologist of the naval supreme command on the Baltic, had no choice but to begin working on the development of a new super-medication a cocaine chewing gum that would be the hardest drug German soldiers had ever taken. It was tested at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, on a track used to trial new shoe soles for German factories; prisoners were required to walk and walk until they dropped.

It was crazy, horrifying, says Ohler, quietly. Even Mommsen was shocked by this. He had never heard about it before. The young marines, strapped in their metal boxes, unable to move at all and cut off from the outside world, suffered psychotic episodes as the drugs took hold, and frequently got lost, at which point the fact that they could stay awake for up to seven days became irrelevant. It was unreal, says Ohler. This wasnt reality. But if youre fighting an enemy bigger than yourself, you have no choice. You must, somehow, exceed your own strength. Thats why terrorists use suicide bombers. Its an unfair weapon. If youre going to send a bomb into a crowd of civilians, of course youre going to have a success.

Meanwhile, in Berlin, Hitler was experiencing his own unreality, with his only ally in the world his podgy, insecure personal physician, Dr Morell. In the late 20s, Morell had grown a thriving private practice in Berlin, his reputation built on the modish vitamin injections he liked to give his patients. He met Hitler after he treated Heinrich Hoffman, the official Reich photographer, and sensing an opportunity quickly ingratiated himself with the Fhrer, who had long suffered from severe intestinal pains. Morell prescribed Mutaflor, a preparation based on bacteria, and when his patients condition Patient A, as Hitler was thereafter known began to improve, their codependent relationship began. Both were isolated. Hitler increasingly trusted no one but his doctor, while Morell relied solely on the Fhrer for his position.

When Hitler fell seriously ill in 1941, however, the vitamin injections that Morell had counted on no longer had any effect and so he began to ramp things up. First, there were injections of animal hormones for this most notorious of vegetarians, and then a whole series of ever stronger medications until, at last, he began giving him a wonder drug called Eukodal, a designer opiate and close cousin of heroin whose chief characteristic was its potential to induce a euphoric state in the patient (today it is known as oxycodone). It wasnt long before Hitler was receiving injections of Eukodal several times a day. Eventually he would combine it with twice daily doses of the high grade cocaine he had originally been prescribed for a problem with his ears, following an explosion in the Wolfs Lair, his bunker on the eastern front.

Did Morell deliberately turn Hitler into an addict? Or was he simply powerless to resist the Fhrers addictive personality? I dont think it was deliberate, says Ohler. But Hitler trusted him. When those around him tried to remove Morell in the fall of 1944, Hitler stood up for him though by then, he knew that if he was to go, he [Hitler] would be finished. They got along very well. Morell loved to give injections, and Hitler liked to have them. He didnt like pills because of his weak stomach and he wanted a quick effect. He was time-pressed; he thought he was going to die young. When did Hitler realise he was an addict? Quite late. Someone quotes him as saying to Morell: youve been giving me opiates all the time. But mostly, they talked about it in oblique terms. Hitler didnt like to refer to the Eukodal. Maybe he was trying to block it off from his mind. And like any dealer, Morell was never going to say: yeah, youre addicted, and I have something to feed that for you. So he talked in terms of health rather than addiction? Yes, exactly.

The effect of the drugs could appear to onlookers to be little short of miraculous. One minute the Fhrer was so frail he could barely stand up. The next, he would be ranting unstoppably at Mussolini. Ah, yes: Mussolini. In Italy, Blitzed will come with an extra chapter. I found out that Mussolini patient D, for Il Duce was another of Morells patients. After the Germans installed him as the puppet leader of the Republic of Italy in 1943, they ordered him to be put under the eyes of the doctor. Again, Ohler springs up. Again, he returns with a document in his hand. Theres not enough material to say he was an addict. But he was being given the same drugs as Hitler. Every week there was a doctorly report. He runs his finger along the typewritten lines, translating for me as he goes. He has improved, he is playing tennis again, the swelling of his liver is normal Its like hes a racehorse.

An unwell-looking Adolf Hitler in July 1944. Photograph: ullsteinbild/Getty Images

For Hitler, though, a crisis was coming. When the factories where Pervitin and Eukodal were made were bombed by the allies, supplies of his favourite drugs began to run out, and by February 1945 he was suffering withdrawal. Bowed and drooling and stabbing at his skin with a pair of golden tweezers, he cut a pitiful sight. Everyone describes the bad health of Hitler in those final days [in the Fhrerbunker in Berlin], says Ohler. But theres no clear explanation for it. It has been suggested that he was suffering from Parkinsons disease. To me, though, its pretty clear that it was partly withdrawal. He grins. Yeah, it must have been pretty awful. Hes losing a world war, and hes coming off drugs.

Two months later, Hitler and his new wife, Eva Braun (like Leni Riefenstahl, another of Morells patients), killed themselves, as the world knows. What happened to Morell? We know he survived, but did he get away unscathed?

I think a lot of Nazis did get away with it, says Ohler. But not him. He wasnt able to shed his skin, make a new career, get rich on his memoirs even though he could have said, truly, that he hadnt committed any war crimes. He lost his mind. He disintegrated. Hes a tragic figure. He wasnt evil. He was only an opportunist.

In 1947, the Americans, having tried and failed to extract useful information from him, deposited Morell in Munich. There he was picked up by a half-Jewish Red Cross nurse who took pity on this dishevelled, shoeless figure. She delivered him to the hospital in Tegernsee, where he died a year later.

Blitzed looks set to reframe the way certain aspects of the Third Reich will be viewed in the future. But Ohlers thesis doesnt, of course, make National Socialism any more fathomable, and for him, perhaps, there is an element of disappointment in this, for he has been seeking to understand it ever since he was a boy (the son of a judge, he grew up close to the border with France). It was the whole reason why I wanted to write, he says. I thought with writing that you could counter propaganda.

His maternal grandfather worked as a railway engineer during the war, the head of a small station in occupied Bohemia. One day at school we watched a film of the liberation of a concentration camp, and it was so shocking to me. That same day, I asked him about the trains going to the camps. He told me that he saw one in the winter coming from the west, and that he said to himself: these are Russian POWs. But since it came from the west, and he heard children, and it was a cattle train, he kind of realised something weird was happening.

I wasnt much older than 10, and I was trying to understand: what kind of person is this, my grandfather? Because he continued being a railway engineer. He didnt join the resistance. He said the SS was guarding the train, and he was afraid, and so he just went back into his little office to continue with his drawings. He always said Hitler wasnt so bad. In the 80s, you used to hear that a lot: that it was all exaggerated, that Hitler didnt know about the bad things, that he created order.

He pauses. You think it [nazism] was orderly. But it was complete chaos. I suppose working on Blitzed has helped me understand that at least. Meth kept people in the system without their having to think about it. His hope is that his book will be read by a younger generation of Germans who would rather look to the future than dwell on the past. Is the right rising again? Is that why he wants them to read it? It is quite a dangerous time. I hate these attacks on foreigners, but then our governments do it, too, in Iraq and places. Our democracies havent done a very good job in this globalised world. That said, he doesnt think the new party of the right, Alternative for Germany, may be the threat it appears (in elections earlier this month, it outperformed Angela Merkels Christian Democrats). The right wing always had so little purchase here [after the war] because of our history, he says. When I was young, you would never even see a German flag. The first time I did was in 1990, when Germany won the World Cup. So perhaps this is just a correction.

Before I head to the airport, Ohler agrees to take me to see what remains of the Temmler factory which last time he looked still stood in Berlin-Johannisthal, a part of the city that used to be in the east and so it is that we set off on a bright blue day (in the movies, the east seems always to be grey and cold) in search of what remains of Dr Hauschilds white-tiled laboratory. Twenty minutes later, we pull up in a residential street, all window boxes and net curtains, as quiet as the grave. Oh, my God, he says, unfolding his long, thin legs from the car. Wow. Its completely gone.

For a few moments, we peer wonderingly through a chain link fence at the barren expanse of dust and concrete, and the neat white and red houses beyond it. But theres nothing to be done: try as I might, I cant superimpose the eery monochrome photographs Ive seen of the factory in Blitzed on to this Technicolor suburban scene. What was almost tangible to me on Ohlers roof, only half an hour ago, now takes on the unreal quality of a dream or, perhaps, just a very bad trip.

Blitzed is published by Penguin on 6 October (20). Click here to order a copy for 16.40 go to or call 0330 333 6846

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