One of the most luminous music producers of his generation, Timbaland opened up in a recent interview with Rolling Stone about a particularly rough bout of depression and drug addiction he had after he started taking Oxycontin in his thirties to deal with a gunshot wound he suffered as a teen. Oxycontin is an opioid, which makes it a controlled substance. It is to be used as prescribed and when there is a need for round the clock treatment of pain.

Oxycontin is noted for its high risk of addiction and dependence, and can cause respiratory distress or death when taken in high doses or combined with alcohol or other substances. Timbaland describes respiratory distress and a near-death experience in the interview: “All I can tell you is that there was a light.. .I woke up trying to catch my breath, like I was underwater. But through that whole thing I saw life – I saw where I would be if I don’t change, and where I could be if I did… But I thought about Michael Jackson… I didn’t want to be old and taking these pills.”

During the time that Timbaland was taking Oxycontin, he experienced major life failures, his marriage started to falter and his music did not have the kind of success which defines his career. He recalls sleeping all day and battling with his perception of his self-worth, and he says that Jay-Z at one point told him to not do any more interviews because he was “saying crazy shit.”

Timbaland says that he was inspired to speak out about his experiences due to the high profile deaths of Prince and Chris Cornell, a long time collaborator of his. The producer also notes that the landscape of who makes music has undergone a kind of shift from the drug sellers making the music to the drug users making the music, which the producer says is an important point for the hip-hop community to understand as it relates to the prevalence of depression and self-medication within it.

If depression can affect a person of Timbaland’s stature and accomplishments, it can affect anyone. And sometimes self-care is not enough to combat the effects that it can have on the psyche. Having friends who will reach out and check on you is vital. Timbaland had Swizz Beats and Pharrell in his corner, popping in to make sure he was okay. Therapy is a great help, although it has traditionally been difficult for Black and working-class people to afford and find.

Living with depression is a community affair, and it is my hope that everyone who is currently experiencing it can find and receive the help they need to manage it.

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