It wasn’t Ariana Grande’s job to save Mac Miller – let the blame focus on the real evil... addiction

Emotional ordeals may fuel mental health problems like depression, but breakups do not kill. Suggesting otherwise trivialises the noxious power of depression and addiction, both of which do

Jess Denham
Saturday 08 September 2018 18:41 BST
Twitter tributes to Mac Miller

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Rapper Mac Miller’s death from an apparent drug overdose at the young age of 26 is a tragedy. But instead of focusing on why such a passionate young man - one who spoke and rapped openly about his struggle with addiction - failed to get the support he needed to recover, some fans have channelled their shock into blaming his ex-girlfriend, singer Ariana Grande. It’s all too easy to do - she’s still here, she can answer to his death! But he cannot.

Mac Miller, whose real name is Malcolm McCormick, and Grande, 25, dated for two years before breaking up in May. Both have publicly acknowledged the role that his substance abuse had to play in their decision to split, with Miller revealing that he first got into drugs aged 15. He described drugs as “dangerous but awesome” in 2013, before later confirming to Billboard that “every single song” on his 2014 album Faces was about cocaine.

But this didn’t stop US tabloid TMZ, who broke the story of Miller’s passing, from including a now-edited line claiming he “had trouble recently with substance abuse…in the wake of his breakup with Grande”.

Shortly after their split, Miller was arrested for a hit-and-run while driving under the influence. Before long, a tweet blaming her for his relapse had racked up 139,000 ‘likes’. Grande felt forced to respond, arguing that no-one should “minimise female self-respect and self-worth” by pressurising someone to stay in a “toxic relationship”.

“I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be,” she wrote. “I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety […] but shaming/blaming women for a man’s inability to keep his s*** together is a very major problem. Of course I didn’t share how hard or scary it was while it was happening, but it was.”

She made a crucially important point, one which remains so after Miller’s death: tying blame to addiction is not only unhelpful; it can be dangerous.

Too many people stay in unhealthy relationships in the belief or fear that distancing themselves from their friend or partner, who for whatever reason they no longer feel able to support, will directly lead to their addiction spiralling out of control. Reading the angry flood of abusive tweets sent to Grande - “You made him do it, you slag” being just one of many - will no doubt scare others in similarly vulnerable positions into staying in a toxic relationship when they know they need to leave.

This applies to both men and women, though it is undeniable that women unfairly face increased societal pressure to fulfil the outdated role of maternal protector, as Grande herself noted.

Increased awareness has taught us that addiction is an illness and is not the addict’s fault. But neither is their ongoing battle, relapse or death that of their loved ones. Emotional ordeals may fuel mental health problems like depression, but breakups do not kill. Suggesting otherwise trivialises the noxious power of depression and addiction, both of which do.

So it’s time to end the blame game. Playing is helping no one. Instead, let’s shift the focus onto how to get addicts and those connected to them the support they need.

Rather than gossiping about Grande’s presumed “role” in this tragedy, use it to start a conversation about the risks of drug and alcohol use with friends. Most importantly, if you’re worried about someone you care about, seek professional help, and then help them seek it too.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, Narcotics Anonymous has a free helpline running from 10am to midnight every day. Call 0300 999 12 12 or visit

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