Eminem has opened up about his former struggles with drug addiction in a personal new essay.
In the piece penned for XXL, Em discusses the way that “everything changed” after he signed with Interscope and released his second studio album, 1999’s ‘The Slim Shady LP’. He describes how after he first relocated to Los Angeles, he and friends would go to Tijuana to purchase drugs such as Vicodin.
“The last time we went, we’re second in line and this dude in front of us starts arguing with the guy in Customs, and they fuckin’ throw him down on the ground and start pulling pills out his pockets and shit,” Em recalls. “We were scared shitless, but we got through. And when I say we had the motherlode. Our pants were frickin’ stuffed with pills. I don’t know how many we had.”
Despite what he acknowledges was an early warning sign, the rapper says he didn’t think he had a problem at that stage. “I just really, really liked drugs. As I started making a little money, I could buy more of them.”
“I didn’t take anything hard until I got famous,” Em explains. “I was experimenting. I hadn’t found a drug of choice. Back then you went on tour and people were just giving you free drugs. I managed it for a little while. And then, it just became, I like this shit too much and I don’t know how to stop.”
While Em was able to “downplay” his addiction for some time, it reached a tumultuous point in the period between 2000’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ and 2004 album ‘Encore’, when the rapper was taking a mixture of Vicodin, Valium and alcohol, as well as Ambien before performances. Em goes on to recount one story from that time period, when he performed for BET’s 106 & Park with 50 Cent and G-Unit and was interviewed afterwards.
“That’s when the wheels started coming off. One of the hosts was talking to me and I could not understand a word she was saying. 50 had to cover for me and answer every question,” he explains. “If you watch back to that interview now, you can notice it. That’s when everyone around me knew, ‘He’s fucked up. Something’s wrong with him.’”
Eminem explains that his heaviest period of drug usage and addiction spanned around five years. “It felt like a long time when it was happening, but looking back at it now, it wasn’t that long of a time for my problem to explode as it did.”
Em’s substance abuse escalated following the death of the rapper’s friend and D12 bandmate Proof in 2006, when he says his addiction “went through the fuckin’ roof”. Em recounts one point shortly after Proof’s death, when he fell over in his bathroom and woke up in a hospital “with fucking tubes in me and shit”, unable to talk or understand what had happened.
“Just after Proof died, I was in my house by myself, and I was just laying in bed and I couldn’t move and I just kept staring at the ceiling fan. And I just kept taking more pills. I literally couldn’t walk for two days when that happened and eventually my drug use fuckin’ skyrocketed.
“I had fuckin’ 10 drug dealers at one time that I’m getting my shit from.  to 80 Valiums a night, which is a lot. I don’t know how the fuck I’m still here. I was numbing myself.”
Eminem was eventually hospitalised in December 2007 following a methadone overdose, with doctors telling him he had ingested the equivalent of four bags of heroin. He got sober the following year. In a recent interview for manager Paul Rosenberg’s podcast, he discussed having to relearn how to rap following the overdose.
“I remember when I first got sober and all the shit was out of my system, I remember just being, like, really happy and everything was fucking new to me again,” he said about working on his 2009 album ‘Relapse’. “It was the first album and the first one that I had fun recording in a long time.”
He continued: “It was like the first time I started having fun with music again and relearning how to rap. You remember that whole process, [it] took a long time for my brain to start working again.”
On the same episode, Em revealed that a feud he had with Snoop Dogg was quashed after their mutual friend Dr. Dre was hospitalised following a brain aneurysm in 2021. The pair have since performed together on multiple occasions – such as at this year’s Super Bowl half-time show and the MTV Video Music Awards – and released the collaborative single ‘From the D 2 the LBC’ in June.
Earlier this month, Em won a Creative Arts Emmy Award for his part in this year’s Super Bowl half-time show, taking him one step closer to EGOT status.