Gone Too Soon: George Michael’s Struggles with Drug Abuse
The death of George Michael late last year marked a sad end to an often tragic life. Here we look at the personal struggles of one of the best-loved artists of our generation.
2016 was a year that deprived us of many of our most beloved musicians and artists, not least legendary singer and songwriter George Michael, who passed away peacefully at his Oxfordshire home on Christmas Day at the age of 53.
Even as British police announced in early January that a post-mortem examination as part of the investigation into George Michael’s death was “inconclusive”, rumours and tabloid headlines suggested a possible heroin overdose and, at the very least, a long and troubled struggle with drug abuse.
While the much-loved singer’s cause of death may remain a mystery, his struggle with drugs and ill health has never been far from the headlines over the past decade. Going further back than that, Michael is known to have struggled with depression after losing his mother, Lesley Angold, and his lover, Anselmo Feleppa, within a few years of each other in the 1990s.
Depression, Arrests and Drug Use
This descent into depression, and the arrests and drug use that followed, seem incongruous with the handsome, fresh-faced and energetic George Michael who rose to fame with pop outfit Wham! in the 1980s. Hits such as ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ and ‘Last Christmas’ established Wham! as a household name, before Michael’s meteoric rise continued with a massively successful solo career.
Michael’s debut album Faith sold more than 20 million copies. In 2008 he was ranked 40th on Billboard’s list of the Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time, but at the same time it was increasingly apparent that the iconic singer was struggling with personal, health and drug issues.
Where exactly it all started to unravel is difficult to pinpoint. Michael’s first major brush with the law came in 1998 when he was arrested in Beverly Hills for “lewd behaviour.” In 2007, George Michael would reveal that hiding his homosexuality made him “fraudulent”, claiming that his 1998 arrest was a subconsciously deliberate act.
It was not until well into the next decade that it emerged that Michael may have had a serious problem with drugs when a series of arrests made international headlines:
- In February 2006 the singer was arrested on suspicion for possession of ‘Class C’ drugs after he was found slumped over the wheel of a car on a London street. He was cautioned by police and released.
- In 2007, Michael pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence of drugs after his car was found obstructing a road in London. He was banned from driving for two years and sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
- In September 2008 Michael was arrested in a public toilet in London for possession of drugs, thought to include crack cocaine, indicating an escalation to use of ‘harder’ drugs. Again, he received just a caution and was released.
- In August 2010 George Michael was “charged with possession of cannabis and with driving while unfit through drink or drugs” after he had crashed his car into a London high street store the previous month. It was reported at the time that he was also taking the prescription medication amitriptyline. He was sentenced to eight weeks in prison the following month and banned from driving for five years. He was released from prison in October after serving four weeks.
After George Michael’s last arrest, he told police: “I’m so ashamed of it. It is so ridiculously dangerous and that is why I have stayed away from them (the antidepressants), even though I still have insomnia and I had some anxiety.”
Admission of Crack Cocaine Use
Indeed, George Michael’s misuse of cannabis was something spoke candidly to the media about more than once. In 2007, he told BBC Radio 4 that he was “constantly trying” to smoke less of the drug. “Absolutely I would like to take less, no question. To that degree, it’s a problem,” he said.
Two years later he told the Guardian that he had cut back on his use of the drug, smoking only “seven or eight” spliffs a day instead of 25. In the same interview, George Michael admitted to using crack cocaine, saying he was put under pressure by reporter Simon Hattenstone.
“Was I? On that occasion? Yeah,” Michael conceded.
“I’ve done different things at different times that I shouldn’t have done, once or twice, you know,” he added. “Nobody wants to regularly smoke crack.”
While Michael was never to speak so candidly about his drug use again, he continued to make the headlines in the last six years of his life. In October 2011, he was admitted to a Vienna ICU with pneumonia after cancelling a concert. Then, in 2013, he spent two weeks in a UK hospital after falling from his moving car.
While he was never arrested for drug use again, a 2015 interview with a relative suggested that George Michael continued to struggle with alcohol, marijuana and crack cocaine abuse, and spent a year in rehab in 2014-2015.
Help for Crack Cocaine Addiction
In spite of the apparent personal issues and struggles with crack cocaine, Michael continued to do what he did best throughout the later years of his life — make great music. His last album, ‘Symphonica’, became his 7th solo number one album in the UK, bringing his overall record sales over the 100 million mark, making him one of the biggest-selling British acts of all time.
As hundreds of millions of fans continue to mourn his passing, Michael will be remembered not for the troubles in his life, but for the joy and happiness he brought people through his music.
Crack cocaine abuse ruins the lives of tens of thousands of people every year. If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine abuse, contact us today for a free assessment and resources for overcoming cocaine addiction.