Songwriter John O’Brien talks about the opioid crisis in new single 'By The Throat '

I remember my own encounters with opioids after I had surgery and the physician gave me a prescription for about 100 OCs. I took a couple of them and I just didn’t feel right so I stopped and just decided I’d put up with the pain. Lucky me. My brother was not as lucky.

This song and video are about the opioid crisis. I have a brother who passed away from an overdose and it really sharpened my feelings about the 60 or 70,000 people a year that are dying from this addiction.

I knew something was wrong and spoke to him about it frequently but he was difficult to deal with anyway and once he was “high” he was impossible to deal with. He passed away by himself in a hotel room leaving a son he loved, an ex-wife who loved him dearly and millions of dollars in wealth. I was the executor of his will and had to make all the arrangements for his funeral and so on. It was a really hard time for all of us.

I became involved with some groups who were fighting for reform of the prescription laws and I studied the facts. As a songwriter, I also studied the language and the slang involved in the culture of addiction so that the song could speak to those who are addicted and encourage them to go get help.

The song starts with an overdose, almost death, and recovery using Narcan, a drug to counteract the deadly opiate effects. The song describes the process of becoming addicted after a doctor prescribes the painkillers, OxyContin, losing employment, and after the prescription runs out onto heroin and ultimately fentanyl.

The song goes on with the addicted person “running” which is the slang for going to get a fix. “You know you’re dying no matter how much you pretend!” The lyric’s message appeals to addicts to get help and stop the “running”. In the last verse, the addict looks at a window, sees an angel, not the death ghost, that’s the strength to get help, takes her hand and goes with her to get that help. “JUST GO!!” That angel is the friend or organization that brings the addict to the rehab facility. She is depicted in the video

What I have found is that anybody who has lost a loved one, a close friend, or someone of consequence in their lives reacts strongly to the song itself. They never have to ask what the song’s about, and I can always see a bit of a blank stare as I’m sure they are contemplating their experience. It is a terrible scourge that our country is going through and I feel terrible for the friends and families that have lost loved ones as I have.

This video was put together to enhance the emotional response of people so that they would begin to push for funding for rehabilitation and stop treating people who are addicted to opiates as criminals. The idea that somebody is a criminal when they are addicted through the use of prescription drugs prescribed by a doctor is preposterous. Yet our system seems to do that without regard to how the addiction came to be. My brother had bone spurs in his foot and it turned into a death sentence thanks to the medical profession.

Numerous organizations are working hard to bring the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who are addicted to opiates into rehabilitation and treat this as a healthcare issue not as a criminal issue. I feel very strongly about this and I worked closely with my award-winning videographer, Victor Zimet to put across the message that getting help and rehabilitation is a real alternative.

I would urge anybody who sees this video and is moved by it to contribute time or funds to an organization that is out to change how this epidemic is handled. They’re easy to find, they need your help, and the people who are addicted are simply looking for that help. Of course, be careful so many of the clinics that provide rehabilitation services are actually in it for the money.

People can check with their government agencies for a recommendation as to what social organizations are best to provide funding in time to. The bottom line is to do something.

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"By The Throat" was directed and produced by Award-Winning videographer and filmmaker Victor Zimet who also directed John's prior music video "California Wildfire" (also from the album "The Love You Need"). Zimet, who is also an accomplished documentary filmmaker, has captured such high-profile performing artists as Cyndi Lauper, Rory Gallagher, Black 47, and Nenad Bach. He has also produced feature films including “Random Lunacy” and “Fanatic Heart.”

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