There has always been a societal fascination in the lives of those who live fast and die young. The tendency is to glamorize the lives of pop stars and celebrities who burned the candle at both ends, led wild lives, and lost their lives. The “27 club” focuses on a group of celebrities who happened to die at the age of 27. At the end of the day, 27 is somewhat arbitrary. That being said, it does fall within the range of when people are most susceptible to die as a result of certain lifestyle choices.
As people grow older, they generally become more risk-averse. Current scientific findings suggest that the brain is fully developed at the age of 25. Not so long ago, it was believed that the human brain was fully developed at a much younger age. A person who has already developed a risky lifestyle during childhood or adolescence may already be on a dangerous path by the time they reach 25. This makes the concept of the “27 club” less surprising.
Our bodies change over time. You may remember a time in your youth when it felt like you were invincible or when it felt like consequences did not matter or were simply unlikely to affect you personally. As a person ages, they tend to become more aware that life is full of risks and that they are not immune.
Members of the “27 club” were put on a pedestal at a young age. You have probably heard stories about the lives of child actors who have faced lots of challenges as adults. There are many reasons for this. An obvious one is that children are usually given permission to act with a certain level of abandonment. Children who are nudged to act like adults or fulfill adult-like responsibilities are placed in unnatural roles at a young age. Invariably, this results in a number of consequences that may not become fully obvious until later in life.
Members of the “27 club”
The “27 Club” includes popular musicians, artists, actors, and athletes who died at age 27. These individuals often died as a result of drug or alcohol abuse and addiction, suicide, the result of violence, or transportation-related accidents such as car or plane crashes.
Hendrix is a member of the “27 club” who is often referenced. Hendrix is widely regarded as a brilliant musician. He lived a wild life that many find idealistic, surreal, and desirable. He died in a sad way that is not uncommon or glamorous. Hendrix died by choking on his vomit which resulted in asphyxia. This occurred because he was intoxicated and unconscious. This is a common way to die in the category of overdose fatalities.
A person can appear larger than life, but It’s important to keep in mind that no one is too glamorous or too cool to avoid the negative consequences of risky behaviors associated with drug or alcohol abuse.
Joplin was a freewheeling singer-songwriter who was one of the most well-known musicians in the late 1960s. In 1970, Joplin was found dead on the floor of her hotel room by her road manager. Her death was determined to be the result of an accidental heroin overdose. It is believed that Joplin had been given heroin that was significantly more potent than what she had used on previous occasions.
Joplin’s death by opioid overdose from a particularly strong batch of heroin is not unusual. Tolerance is not easy to gauge and those who abuse drugs are often not in a state of mind to be especially cautious. In some situations, batches of drugs may be cut or laced with unexpected substances that make for a potent and potentially deadly combination. A speedball, combining uppers and downers like heroin and cocaine is a common example.
Another frequent reason for overdose that relates directly to a change in tolerance is when a person has recently relapsed. Those who relapse are at an increased risk for overdose fatalities as they may not realize that their body and mind are not used to the amount of a substance they were using at the height of their abuse before they entered treatment. This is a reason why relapse prevention is such a high priority.
Morrison was the lead singer of the rock band The Doors. He was known for being wild and unpredictable. His alcoholism was public knowledge in the 1960s. His death in Paris at 27 is considered somewhat mysterious. Some individuals stated that Morrison’s death was due to an accidental heroin overdose. Other accounts suggest Morrison may have died as a result of heart failure, which at the age of 27 is unlikely to be from natural causes.
In modern times, Cobain is the person who usually comes to mind when someone mentions the “27 club”. Cobain was the lead singer of the band Nirvana. He struggled with mental health issues including depression. He publicly struggled with becoming famous. Cobain was known to have issues with heroin abuse. He had a complicated and fraught relationship with his wife Courtney Love who was famous in her own right. In 1994, after spending time in rehab, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle after killing himself with a shotgun.
Not all deaths associated with addiction end with an overdose fatality, but that does not mean that substance abuse was not an underlying culprit. Sometimes the way a person dies results in a partial rewrite of history. A person who takes their own life by suicide is often viewed very differently in hindsight. It’s important to keep in mind that the end does not necessarily explain or explain away the events that led up to the end. Cobain’s mental health and addiction were likely both factors in his decision to take his own life.
Keeping that in mind, it is problematic to argue that his risky behavior with drugs and alcohol did not have an outsized role in his life trajectory. Had Cobain changed his lifestyle after rehab, it is possible that he would have been able to find a path forward. It’s a mistake to believe that a person with suicidal tendencies is somehow fated to eventually take their life by suicide. This is not true and there is a great deal of scientific evidence to support that proper treatment and adjustments in lifestyle can help someone find a path forward.
Winehouse is a more recent member of the so-called “27 club”. She died in 2011 as a result of alcohol poisoning. Winehouse openly addressed issues with mental health and addiction in her music. She specifically wrote about her feelings about going to rehab. Some accounts indicate that Winehouse believed she would likely die young and one could argue that this can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keeping that in mind, it’s important to not make assumptions about life trajectories for someone who is in their 20s. They do not have the life experience of duration to have a clear sense of what it means to live a long life and how much can change in just a few years.
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