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Gahan Speaks Out After Drug Death

The heroin overdose of the Smashing Pumpkins’ backup musician Jonathan Melvoin in New York on July 12 has caused a lot of rethinking in the music industry among those who haven’t taken an active role in the campaign against drug use.

It also brought out one unexpected voice--that of Depeche Mode’s singer David Gahan, who himself had a near-fatal overdose in May.

Gahan, 34, who is currently undergoing intense treatment for addiction and is scheduled to return to court to face drug possession charges on July 30, was prompted by Melvoin’s death to speak publicly for the first time since his May arrest. As he talked by phone from a treatment center, his first thoughts were how he might help others avoid the same fate.

“All I can do is hope my actions will speak much louder than the crap that’s come out of my mouth the last few years,” said a buoyant-sounding Gahan, who last year was so depressed by his addiction that he attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. “I don’t want to be running around expecting to save anyone. I’m hanging on by my teeth myself, but every day is better. I don’t have anywhere to go. I lost my house, even lost the visitation rights to my son. But all that will come back if I stay clean.”

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Gahan, though, admits that the only difference between his fate and Melvoin’s was luck.

“I was clean for a few weeks when I came back [to Los Angeles] from New York where I was working with the band,” the English musician says of the Memorial Day weekend when he overdosed on a combination of heroin and cocaine at the Sunset Marquis Hotel. “I went out and shot a speedball one time. The dealer left and I went green. Luckily, there was someone to call 911.

“When I left the hospital, I said to someone that I’d overdosed, and they said, ‘David, you died. They revived you three times.’ I could have had permanent brain damage. When I think about the insanity of this little powder--three minutes of euphoria. . . . You don’t have to be a lifetime user. It only takes one time. People seem to believe the myth that if you just do it once you’re fine, and now many people seem to be going straight to heroin, bypassing pot and all that and going straight to the devil. It’s really scary.”

Gahan, though, says that he is trying to avoid being sanctimonious when he talks to people he sees coming in for treatment.

“I don’t want to be any kind of preacher. I’m in a rock ‘n’ roll band and I love to do that and just want to be David. I’m happy to get in touch with that little kid that was lost [inside]. I’m walking around in a cloud now [that I’m clean].”


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