October 23, 2019  Last Update: November 27, 2017, 8:52 pm

Addiction is a Lonely and Terrifying Place to Be

Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses in one of several YouTube interviews, where he discusses his battles with drugs and alcohol.

According to Duff McKagan, “addiction is a lonely and terrifying place to be”.

McKagan, Guns N’ Roses bassist for 12 years, was just another troubled artist teetering between life and the after-life. At the pinnacle of the band’s popularity, the Seattle-native known as “the King of Beers” chased fame, fortune, drugs and alcohol like it was his job. At one point, McKagan thought drugs and alcohol would literally consume his life. His book entitled “It’s So Easy (and Other Lies),” published in October, documents the band’s story and McKagan’s decent into alcoholism and drug abuse.

In 1991, Guns N’ Roses embarked on a 28-month luxury tour. A 100 person entourage supported the band, including chiropractors, masseuses, a signing coach, tattoo artist and after-party planners. Themed parties like gambling nights and toga parties lasted until the wee hours of the morning. McKagan and the band enjoyed the excess, especially excess drugs and alcohol.

“Every day I made sure I had a vodka bottle next to my bed when I woke up. I tried to quit drinking in 1992, but started again with a vengeance after only a few weeks. I just could not stop. I was too far gone. My hair began falling out in clumps, and my kidneys ached when I pissed. The skin on my hands and feet cracked, and I had boils on my face and neck. I had to wear bandages under my gloves to be able to play my bass”

Immediately after the last show of the Use Your Illusions tour in 1993, McKagan was already off on another side project. He released his solo album, Believe in Me, and set out on another tour. His band mates thought he was nuts, thought he needed to take a break to recuperate from 28 months of partying; another tour would only enable his drug and alcohol habits.

But McKagan saw it as his chance to sober up and kick his coke habit. He thought settling in Seattle would only encourage his drug habits.

McKagan did cut back on his coke habit and switched from vodka to wine. But the bottle of wine eventually turned into 10 bottles of wine a day. And he was still partying for days at a time. The second tour was obviously proving hazardous to McKagan’s health.

In May 1994, McKagan finally made his way back to his Lake Washington home to rest after his three years of touring and partying. But his drug and alcohol use would finally catch up with him in his Seattle dream home. He woke up one morning with the worst pain of his life. McKagan’s pancreas had burst from drinking too much. He thought he was dying.

“I woke up in my new bed with sharp pains in my stomach. Pain was nothing new to me, nor was the sickening feeling of things going wrong with my body. But this was different. This pain was unimaginable, like someone taking a dull knife and twisting it in my guts. The pain was so intense I couldn’t even make it to the edge of the bed to dial 911. I was frozen in pain and fear, whimpering”

His childhood friend, Andy, found McKagan naked in his bed. Andy eventually took McKagan to the ER at Northwest Hospital.

“My pancreas, apparently swollen to the size of a football from all the booze, had burst. I had third-degree burns all over the inside of my body from the digestive enzymes released by the damaged pancreas. Only a few parts of the inside of your digestive tract can handle the enzymes, and the outsides of your organs and your stomach muscles are definitely not among them—it just burns all that tissue”

During surgery, doctors cut off the top of his pancreas and sewed him up. He will be on dialysis for the rest of his life. At the time, McKagan wanted to die.

But he survived and lives to tell the tale. After repairing the wreckage caused by drugs and alcohol abuse, he attempted to lead a “normal” life. In the early 2000s, he went to Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics and founded the wealth management firm Meridian Rock. Now, McKagan is pursuing his journalism career. He currently writes a weekly column for ESPN.com and Seattle Weekly.

I snorted perhaps my body weight in varying degrees of good, bad, and straight-up shitty blow. I don’t recommend this to any of you young readers. I was NOT such a smart 20-something. Nope, just an ordinary drug-addict.
- McKagan blog on Seattle PI

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Guns N Roses bassist Duff McKagan tells of his alcohol & drug fueled rock n roller life out of control


  • An excerpt from Duff McKagan’s autobiography, published in Maxim magazine
  • YouTube interview on Drugs and Alcohol experiences Part I
  • McKagan critical of coverage of the Amy Winehouse tragedy
  • McKagan’s blog on Seattle PI
  • CNN Money coverage of McKagan’s wealth management firm


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