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Mac Miller: Remembering a Beloved Musician

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

December 20, 2023 (Originally Published)

December 20, 2023 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Mac Miller, a rapper from Pittsburgh, met a tragic end on September 26, 2018, succumbing to a fatal overdose. The official determination was that his overdose was accidental, resulting from the lethal combination of fentanyl, cocaine, and alcohol.

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) monitors morbidity rates associated with drug use. Since 2017, the most significant surge in drug overdose fatalities has been linked to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. CDC has declared fentanyl the driver of the U.S. opioid epidemic’s third wave. The use of fentanyl combined with other addictive substances has been flagged as the fourth wave of this ongoing crisis.

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When figures like Mac Miller pass away due to substance abuse, it draws attention to the intricate challenges associated with the indirect consequences of drug and alcohol addiction. The heartbreak of Miller’s demise at the age of 26 is magnified by the profound impact it has had on his family and friends. Those left behind by individuals lost to drug overdoses may grapple with intense stress and mental health complications like adjustment disorder or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Mac Miller’s Come-Up

Miller officially began his career at the age of just 14, freestyling in a friend’s loft. That said, breaking into the rap scene as a young white man in a city increasingly captivated by the talents of native artist Wiz Khalifa, meant that Miller underwent a gradual process of releasing independent iTunes tracks and mixtapes to slowly build a dedicated fan base.

When his debut album, Blue Slide Park, was released in 2011, Miller’s career was set to gain traction. The album claimed the top spot on the Billboard 200, introducing Miller to a broader rap audience through tracks like Smile Back and Party on Fifth Ave.

Despite his rising fame, Miller grappled with heightened episodes of depression. During his 2012 Macadelic tour, he fell into the grip of lean addiction, a concoction of prescription cough syrup and soda popularized within the hip-hop community.

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Mac Miller and Lean Addiction

Miller’s struggles with lean illuminates a broader issue within the hip-hop community. Lean, also known as purple drank or sizzurp, typically contains codeine (an opioid), promethazine (an antihistamine), and soda. The combination of codeine and promethazine can produce a sedative and euphoric effect, making it attractive to some people seeking a recreational high.

The use of lean poses significant health risks, though. Codeine is an opioid, and its misuse is associated with the development of physical dependence, addiction, and life-threatening respiratory depression. The mixture’s sedative properties can amplify the effects of alcohol and other central nervous system depressants, heightening the risk of overdose.

Promethazine, an antihistamine, can cause drowsiness and impair motor skills, further compounded when combined with codeine. Prolonged use of lean has been linked to various health issues, including organ damage, seizures, and, in extreme cases, death.

The allure of lean within the music and hip-hop culture has contributed to its normalization, potentially influencing fans and artists alike. Awareness of the severe health consequences associated with lean use can help people make more informed decisions about this damaging substance.

Mac Miller Drug Use and His Reflections on Substance Abuse

On Faces, an independent mixtape,  Miller referenced the tragic death of another star, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who succumbed to drug-related struggles. He also candidly discussed his use of lean, cocaine, and PCP.

Miller, though, appeared to distance himself from substance abuse with the release of a new, and much more positive, album, GO:OD AM.

A month after the album release, Miller spoke with Larry King about the intertwining nature of his depression and drug use. He acknowledged a prolonged struggle with substance abuse and pervasive depression. Miller suggested that his journey into drug-related challenges might have started with the onset of success. Fame, he noted, becomes complicated as perceptions collide and external opinions can start blurring the lines of reality.

Miller’s life took a downturn when his relationship with Ariana Grande ended. Shortly after their public split, he faced legal trouble, getting arrested after crashing his car in the San Fernando Valley. Miller and his passengers left the scene, leading to his arrest one hour later in his home. In August, he faced two DUI charges related to the incident. In an interview with Zane Lowe on Beats 1, Miller admitted to the arrest being a “stupid mistake,” attributing it to a necessary wake-up call. Reflecting on the incident, he expressed the belief that facing consequences was an essential part of his personal growth, admitting that he needed a course correction in his life.

Miller openly acknowledged his use of cocaine and promethazine in the years following Blue Slide Park, his debut album. In an interview with Rolling Stone, though, he claimed that his drug use was now a thing of the past, admitting to a history of substance abuse but flatly denying that he was addicted to drugs.

On the same day as the interview, Miller released Swimming, an album in which he again repeatedly referenced his experiences with depression.

In Miller’s final performance on Sept. 3 at the Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles, Miller conveyed those sentiments about hurt feelings through his rap. You can see that performance right here.

Mac Miller Overdose: How to Cope if a Loved One Experiences an Overdose

Adjusting to life after the tragic drug overdose of someone close requires a focused approach to managing mental health challenges. To navigate this difficult journey, consider the following strategies or seek professional assistance:

  1. Engage with a reputable counselor
  2. Participate in a grief recovery support group
  3. Practice therapeutic journaling
  4. Prioritize self-care
  5. Cultivate a calm and safe environment

Grief is a complex emotional state that people may experience when losing a loved one to a drug overdose. While challenging, grief can be effectively managed. Those in mourning may feel a range of emotions, including sadness, fear, guilt, shame, loneliness, and depression. In some instances, friends or family members may find it necessary to take a leave of absence from work. Allowing time for acceptance and progression through the stages of grief can help lay the groundwork for sustained mental well-being.

Seeking guidance from qualified grief counselors and mental health professionals can be invaluable. Although grappling with loss presents many challenges, peace can be rediscovered by working through grief and eventually finding joy once more.


What did Mac Miller overdose on?

Mac Miller overdosed on a deadly combination of cocaine, fentanyl, and alcohol.

Was Mac Miller a drug addict?

Although Mac Miller openly admitted abusing drugs and alcohol, he denied having a diagnosable addiction.

Why did Mac Miller do drugs?

Mac Miller had co-occurring mental health issues. He possibly used addictive substances to self-medicate and as a coping mechanism for dealing with the downside of global fame.

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Get Help for Drug Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

Addiction does not discriminate as we can see from the Mac Miller addiction story, but it responds well to evidence-based treatment. We can help you combat any type of drug addiction at Renaissance Recovery in Huntington Beach, CA. If you require assistance with detoxification, we can help connect you with detox facilities near you.

Our outpatient and intensive outpatient programs provide a flexible and affordable pathway to recovery, while enabling you to remain anchored to your everyday obligations.

All Renaissance Recovery treatment programs offer individualized treatment that includes:

Call Renaissance at 866.330.9449 and begin your recovery right away.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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