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POP MUSIC : Heroin's on the Comeback, but Happy Mondays' Ryder Is on the Road Back

August 23, 1992|Steve Hochman and Dennis Hunt

After nearly destroying many of rock's most creative figures in the '60s, heroin generally went out of style in the '70s and early '80s.

But an alarming number of today's alternative and hard-rock musicians have acknowledged using the narcotic in recent years.

They range from Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash and Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis to Ministry mastermind Al Jourgensen and rock's newest parents, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Hole's Courtney Love.

Shaun Ryder, the leader of Happy Mondays, now joins the list.

In the latest issue of the English pop magazine Select, Ryder--whose English band helped popularize the Manchester dance-rock scene--talks about his up-and-down struggle with heroin, crack and other drugs.

"Going to rehab was like being in a hospital drama group," he says. "I've been in before. I've been trying to come off smack for two years, but this time I done it proper. . . .

"You know they're brainwashing you, but you just have to go for it, you have to get into that way of thinking, man. I thought, 'This time I'm doing it for moi .' . . . I'm 29, I've been on heroin for 12 years and I don't want to be a junkie at 30."

Some contemporary rockers never got a chance to get off the drug. Among them: Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak and Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, who died of heroin overdoses in 1987 and 1990, respectively.

"A lot of musicians who are abusing heroin don't want to mellow out but want to go over the edge, as far out as possible," says Dr. George Blair, a Los Angeles psychiatrist specializing in chemical dependency who has worked with a number of young rockers. "That's the tone of the industry and performing in the last few years. The more outrageous the better. Heroin helps performers reach those limits--in their minds anyway."

The good news is that the rise in heroin use in the rock community may have peaked.

"I don't think it's going to get any worse," Blair says. "From what I can see, a lot of the users in the rock community are finally coming to their senses."

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