THE TRAGEDY OF ELVIS BEFORE THE AGE OF ADDICTION AWARENESS AND RECOVERY
Back in the sixties and seventies, addiction was still a mystery to a lot of doctors. There weren’t rehabilitation centers on every corner, and when someone was suffering from addiction, it was often hard to figure out the best course of treatment. Today things are much different. There’s greater awareness of rehabilitation and recovery today, and many who are suffering can get help. Which is why the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death is especially sad. While it’s hard to tell if he could have gotten sober or not, you wonder if his life could have been saved if we had the recovery resources then that we have today. A Cautionary Tale Against Addiction Elvis Presley’s death on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42 was a big shock. To many young people in the seventies, it was shocking that someone could die that young. But Elvis was in bad shape, and in hindsight it was clear he wasn’t going to live to an old age. Elvis had a Doctor Feelgood, Doctor George Nichopoulos, aka Dr. Nick, and thousands of pills were discovered at Graceland after Presley died. Even today, Elvis’s death is a strong warning against prescription drugs. As Dr. Howard Markel writes in PBS News Hour, “His medicine chest was filled with amber-colored, white-topped vials of medications, in doses no responsible doctor would have prescribed.” At first, doctors told the press that Elvis died of cardiac arrhythmia. Apparently, the pathologists hid the truth from the public at his family’s request. But it wasn’t long before the truth got out that Elvis had opiates, Dilaudid, Percodan, Demerol, Quaaludes and codeine in his system. A Deadly Rock and Roll Cliché We’ve seen many rock stars follow the same pattern of Elvis. He came from the era where The Eagles sang “Life in the Fast Lane,” and there was a joke back then about living fast, dying young, and leaving a good-looking corpse. These days, a lot of musicians have wised up. Everyone would love to reach the same career heights as Presley, but no one wants to die as young as he did. And again, you wonder if Elvis could have been successfully treated today. Could he have gone to a high-end rehab? Would he have been able to follow the 12-steps and stay the course? Could he have been saved? Could he have lived to a ripe old age? Of course, we’ll never know for certain, and Presley’s death serves as a strong warning to those who need help. If drugs can take down the King, they can take down anyone. Earlier this year, Presley’s widow Priscilla told People, “It was difficult for all of us, we certainly didn’t see it coming. But we certainly saw the journey he was taking. People go, well why didn’t anyone do anything? Well, that’s not true. People there in the inner group did, but you did not tell Elvis Presley what to do. You did not. I mean, you’d be out of there faster than a scratched cat.”
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