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What Happened to Tom Petty?

Legendary rock musician Tom Petty passed away at the age of 66 from an accidental overdose on October 2, 2017.
Tom Petty is known for hits like “Free Fallin’, “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “Learning to Fly” and “I Won’t Back Down.” (Photo property of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers official Facebook page).

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Tom Petty understood addiction all too well.

“You start losing your soul,” he told his friend Warren Zanes, who wrote “Petty: The Biography.” “Using heroin went against my grain. I didn’t want to be enslaved to anything. So I was always trying to figure out how to do less, and then that wouldn’t work. Tried to go cold turkey, and that wouldn’t work. It’s an ugly f—ing thing.”

How Did Tom Petty Die?

With the help of his second wife, Dana York, Petty went to treatment and got clean. But we’ve all heard by now how Petty’s story ended tragically. Petty, at the age of 66, died of an accidental overdose on Oct. 2.

Results from an autopsy found these drugs in his system: fentanyl, oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam citalopram. By any account, that’s a deadly mix of opioids, sedatives and anti-depressants.

Petty’s family says he was taking the drugs for a fractured hip, which left him in extreme pain.

The Nature of Addiction

It used to be thought that drug use was a moral failure.

Our understanding has come so far since then. Consider, for example, that a large percentage of people who end up at rehab have some co-occurring condition like anxiety or PTSD.

According to Zane’s book, Petty was regularly beaten by his father, leaving large welts all over his body.

We’ll never know, of course, if his childhood left a lasting scar on Petty, but we do know with certainty that that kind of trauma makes people more vulnerable to addiction.

What else do we know?

That injury and illness can open the door to painkiller abuse. That none of us—no matter our wealth or status—are immune to the effects of these powerful drugs.

We also know that, although things have gotten better, there is still a stigma to addiction. Someone who gets clean—and then years later finds that painkillers are a problem—may not want to “disappoint” their friends and family by seeking treatment.

But research shows us that addiction, like any disease, needs to be managed. We can’t be afraid of doing that. We can’t be afraid of letting others down.

We have to do what we can to help ourselves. And, as a society, we have to do what we can to help and support each other.

Rest in peace, Tom Petty. Anyone who knows anything about addiction respects the battle you fought.

And your music will forever make us feel free and hopeful.

About The Raleigh House

The Raleigh House is a residential addiction treatment center located in Denver. If you have a problem with painkillers or heroin (or other drugs) know that there is a way out. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the our addiction treatment program at The Raleigh House.

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