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Creative Addictions: How Ghanaian celebrities are dying through drug use

Drug abuse is a major worry among creatives since it takes away many gifted people’s livelihood and sanity.

Many creatives from Ghana have been plagued by drug addiction. This has happened to Kiki Gyan, Timothy Bentum, OJ Blaq, Nasty, Lord Kenya, Okomfo Kwadee, Sugartone, and Red Eye of 2Toff fame. It has also happened to Bak Tye, Jay Dee, Eric Noah King, a former Peace FM announcer, and others.

When the topic of drug addiction is brought up elsewhere in the world, people immediately think of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Lindsey Lohan, Whitney Houston, Johnny Depp, and Elton John.

Some people are able to kick their addiction, while others continue to do so until they reach a breaking point and are forced into poverty. There are also those that lose their lives through this act.

In my JoyNews Hotline Documentary titled Creative Addictions, I explore reasons behind entertainers’ proclivity for drug use and remedies they can get.

The story of former broadcaster Eric Noah King

Noah King, a presenter who once worked with a popular radio station in Accra in the early 2000s was admired by many for his exceptional presentation skills. But, his promising radio career was truncated when he was plunged into an abyss of drug addiction.

“It got to a point in time I left my comfort zone, my abode and I came to Madina ghetto and I fraternised with rogues and wolves. I became a night owl, always on a wild goose chase. And sometimes making three square meals a day seemed difficult and almost impossible for me,” he said.

Contrary to the general perception that creatives pick up behaviours such as the use of drugs from the industry, Noah King tells me that he started using drugs before he got into the media space. However, he acknowledges that the situation worsened after he got involved with some musicians who were into hard drugs.

“After our Advance Level, I was at home doing nothing and my father had this koinonia with musicians. He rolled with them and then the Kokomba – Nanumba war erupted so the Ghana Armed Forces, the Ghana Police Service, the National Security apparatus thought that it was prudent on their part to organize a national peace concert dubbed operation gong-gong in the three Northern Regions so as to forestall peace in the environment. So apparently my father having this kiononia with the musicians said yes I want my son to join you guys so that he can familiarize himself since he was at home doing nothing. So we were airlifted here to Tamale.

When we got to Tamale, the Hotel that we were put in, I saw things that were alien to me, things that were foreign to me, things that I never knew anything about although I had experimented with cannabis sativa way back during my secondary school days. So this time I realized that these things were foreign and then one who was with me whose name is Kofi pointed to me that this is crack, this is capo cheers, this is cocktail and what he was holding was a bonker,” he said.

Noah King’s curiosity fueled his woes. He was convinced that the source of the assertiveness and energetic performances of the musicians was drugs.

“So when I saw them do that I said okay this is what gets them euphoric and when they stand on stage they mesmerise us, and I said okay fine. So when they were done with all that they were doing on that very night we were called upon to clear the residue and myself and Kofi chanced upon a couple of freebase (when I say freebase I mean crack) on the table and some on the floor so we took them. And Kofi knows much into it and therefore he fixed the crack and he took the heat and he asked me too and I said yea I wanna try because if this is giving them the euphoric and energy and the drive I think it is a good thing. And I tried it and trust me, I was like a moon raker. I saw myself like an angel suspended in the air,” he noted.

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When they returned to Accra from their concert in the Northern Region, Noah could not free himself from the shackles of his newfound love. He spent his money on different types of drugs including those that would enhance his sexual potency.

“So from the experimental stage, I moved to the recreational stage. Apparently I was getting tuition from them, this will actually let you perform well in bed and all that and trust me, when I tried it I realized that it was true. But one thing about drug is this, when diminishing return sets in, you will get to understand that you are going down on bended knees and even you wouldn’t get erection, let alone ejaculation,” he further noted.

The drug addiction had a toll on Noah’s work. He would rather spend time in the hazy stupor of his drugs than go to work. Eventually, he was sacked.

“It got to a point in time, instead of me going on air, I wouldn’t go. I would say Mufti Dabre, Najid Iddis, go play for me. So it got to a time, Despite said no it seems this guy has lost focus. So I was relieved of my duties,” he indicated.

Not only did Noah King lose his job; he also lost his family and resorted to sleeping in the slums.

“One day I went to town and before I came back she had packed bag and baggage and left with the young chap, Jayden. And they left. And when I came back I said ‘I love it that you guys went.’ The reason being that the little that I have, I could use it to satisfy myself again,” he recounted.

The big question is: which drugs are commonly abused? Dr. Julius Xatse, a psychiatrist and clinical coordinator of the Pantang Hospital tells me more.

“Commonly what we are seeing and the most common substance around the world is alcohol. Alcohol is a very toxic drug. Unfortunately, it is among all of them the most legal illicit of the drugs. When you see the adverts on TV about liquor or any bitters, they are for people who are 18 years and above but who even checks for ID cards whenever alcohol is being purchased. So alcohol continues to remain the most predominantly used substance or drug for that matter.

Cannabis comes soon after that in our setting where people use and are able to get that at very cheap prices; 2 cedis, 5 cedis and they are good to go. They still enjoy their high. And then we have cigarettes and the nicotine,” he said.

What drives creatives into drug use?

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Chosen Rehab Centre, Apostle Daniel Cobby Washington, tells me about some of the things that drive creatives into drug use.

“Creatives, their brains never rest. They are inquisitive, they want to know more. They want to unfold, uncover, release things that someone will say ‘wow, how did he get to that frequency, how did he get this song, how did he come out with this movie, how did he write that book? Because the normal thing doesn’t give nobody a high. Something that is common nobody wants to fall for it. But you want to come up with something different. And that is why they start experimental abuse or drugs: let me do some weed, let me do some alcohol. They have different ways to do it. But the weed is supposed to open them up,” he stated.

The Chosen Rebab Centre is a health facility that offers help mentally challenged individuals. This was where Red Eye of 2Toff fame, after battling drug addiction in 2023 got relief. The center has a music recording studio, a computer lab, a gym and an open area suitable for prayer meetings.

According to satirist Kwaku Sintim-Misa popularly known as KSM, the biggest push for drug use among talents in the creative industry is the ability of the drugs to evoke wild creative ideas.

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“They tell you that drugs will enlarge your creative horizon. There are so many things that you can create and do that under normal circumstances you will not be able to; and surprisingly there is some truth to it,” he mentioned.

For most people who use illicit drugs, they start as children or teenagers. The late Lynx Entertainment signee OJ Blaq is one of those who got trapped in the act when he was but a little boy. He said he started smoking when he was very young.

“I started at the age of 11. I was in the boarding house at Achimota Primary School and sometimes you saw the watchmen smoking around, seated in their jackets smoking and I was talking one of my friends and I was like ‘you see how they are smoking, I can smoke. And he would go like ‘you, you go fit smoke?’ That’s how it happened,” he revealed.

Nasty, a former member of the Lifeline Family music group, also says his relationship with drugs was birthed during his time in Adisadel College. Little did he know that what made him ‘high’ for a moment would ruin his life forever.

“This whole drug thing started in school. I said it and the Adisco guys said I was selling them out. While I was trying to talk about my life story, some Adisco guys said I was tarnishing their image. But I am not going to lie. I started this drug thing around 19. I was a little kid. I was a bit stubborn. After smoking cigarette and weed, you needed something stronger. So far as my motive is to stop drugs, I don’t want any drug conversation because right now I’m trying to say ‘no’ to it more than go to rehab. Or they should tie me. Say ‘no’ to it. You have money in your pocket, you say I won’t buy it. That’s the real rehab,” he indicated.

Effects of drug use on creatives

According to Dr. Julius Xatse, drugs impede the normal functioning of the brain.

“The whole concept of drugs is that it has got biological basis. Addiction now demonstrates a biological basis. Making it clear that anytime anyone uses any of these drugs or substances of abuse, the brain itself gets affected. It halts the maturation of the brain and in some cases it even causes the brain’s maturation to retrogress. So certain social skills that you would expect that the person will acquire, because of the use of drugs, they may not acquire,” he said.

That notwithstanding, the general perception that drugs boost the confidence of creatives is rife among entertainers. Although Noah King agrees with this notion, he cautions that the consequences are dire.

“On the prelims, you will do better. Because you can imagine when you are behind the turntable and you are high in the spirit and the music is going on and you wanna scratch, you wanna do this, talk, you get the euphoria. So I always have the intuition that no, if I don’t get high I can’t perform that well. But it will get to a stage in time when you will no longer use the drug, but the drug will use you,” Noah King intimated.

For entertainers who depend on drugs for their creative activities, KSM who admits to attempting drugs in the past, advises that the future is bleak. According to the venerated comedian, people who create works of art without external aids like drugs are usually more successful.

“When you get on any drug, it can give you some amazing energy and some creative geniuses that can give you the boost. However, trust me, if you rely on the natural and you give yourself enough time, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. The deception is that that one gives you an immediate thing that you can do and you think this is the way out. But the more you do it, the more you destroy that capacity. So you can be the greatest creative and everything but later on you realise that it brings you down again, very very fast. So my advice is, don’t depend on any external high to get creative because it will give you just the boost but you can’t depend on that boost.

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I tried something very minimal to taste it. I did it to see how best it can help me to be creative and the ideas that I got were all very wild and to me wow ‘this thing is amazing, it can give you ideas and things’. But then once it starts dying down then you realise these are not wild ideas, these were stupid things. But at that time you don’t care. For me it doesn’t work,” KSM noted.

“Creatives who stay natural and depend on the natural high are always more successful and they have longevity than those who depend on the quick high thing,” he added.

The road to recovery

At the Chosen Rehab Centre, Apostle Washington reveals, a lot of the people who are brought to his facility for treatment are those who have artistic capabilities, a reason he decided to build a music studio at the premises.

We see that almost 50 percent of the people that come in are musically- inclined. So either they sing, rap or some play drums. So we realized that if we are having all these people, why not put in a studio. And God being so good my background is production because I am a Grammy-nominated producer in Sweden so it was easy for me to put together the studio and to teach music lessons and beat making.

I have trained a lot of guys. So the guys you see in the studios, they have been taught softwares like Protus, Studio 1, Logic so they can use all these things to make their beats. And Production helps because you would need some form of concentration and if you are able to put some tones together there is a certain high in it and that replaces the high in the drugs that you are feeling for.

For those who find themselves in this situation, all hope is not lost. Dr Xatse suggests ways to help people get out of drug use and its addiction.

Creative Addictions: How Ghanaian celebrities are dying through drug use

“In helping people who are into drugs or substance abuse, we have various strategies and approaches. It is easier if you have the person you are dealing with appreciating the fact that they have a problem that needs to be treated for that matter. Unfortunately, quite a number of people who have substance use disorders or addiction issues do not even consider it as a problem until they hit rock bottom.

But once they do, what we do is that we have a process where we assess them because drug like I have mentioned in the past have a myriad effects on the mind and it may have a physical effect that is associated with the drug use so they need a thorough medical examination, a thorough psychiatric examination so that we identify some of the underlying psychiatric conditions, then we can target treatment at them and probably focus subsequently on the drug use,” he said.

It is therefore, important for people to seek professional help when find themselves in such situations.


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