Chris Cornell's widow says that his passing "was not inevitable" and blames her husband's battle with addiction for his death.
Since her husband's passing in May 2017, Vicky Cornell has become an expert and advocate on the issue of drug abuse, highlighting the importance of ending misconceptions about what she says is "a totally preventable and treatable disease."
Vicky shared her story last Thursday (January 24) during a panel discussion at United Nations headquarters. "Leaving No One Behind: The Opioid Epidemic As A Global Challenge" was organized by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to highlight the growing problem of addiction worldwide.
Vicky said in her remarks (see video below): "As many people know, my husband Chris was in recovery from addiction. He struggled with alcohol and opioids, but he broke the cycle in 2003.
"I lost my husband, my children lost their amazing father, and the world lost a bright light to an entirely preventable and treatable disease.
"Although I supported my husband in his recovery, there was so much I didn't know," she continued. "And since his tragic death, I have committed myself to learning about brain science… and to learning about treatment and recovery. And I just wish that I only knew then what I know now."
Chris Cornell, 52, was found dead in a Detroit hotel room in May 2017. The coroner declared the cause of death to be suicide by hanging.
Medical reports note that though seven different drugs were found in his system, these were not a contributing factor to his death.
Vicky Cornell, and others in the medical community, however, argue that there is more to the story.
"My husband had a relapse," she said. "He had gotten clean and sober by 2003, and then he had a relapse. And I'd like to clarify that his death was not inevitable. A lot of times people will say, 'Yes, but you couldn't have done [anything], and you couldn't…' And I'm not talking about self-blame. But I'm saying, no, he should not have died. There were no demons that took over. And nothing angers me more than when I read that in the press, especially rock journalists [who write about his supposed] demons."
Chris Cornell had struggled with substance abuse since childhood but had been sober for years. At the time of the singer's death, prescription drugs were found in his system, including the anti-anxiety medication Ativan.
"Chris had a brain disease called addiction," Vicky said in her remarks. "And he also had the unfortunate luck of having a doctor who was not properly trained or educated on addiction. But since his death, I've learned that most doctors are not trained on addiction. We all trust our doctor, especially when there's accolades all over the walls. I wish I knew then that a benzodiazepine could hurt his recovery. But he was wrongly prescribed and over-prescribed this psychotropic drug that is not supposed to be given to those in recovery, which caused him to relapse."
Vicky says that she is convinced that a drug relapse drastically altered Chris's state of mind on the last night of his life.
"If only we knew the danger — both he and I — that day when he was being written that very first prescription, including how addictive this drug is, even for low-risk individuals," she said.
"I wish I understood that addiction is a lifelong chronic illness that needs a lifelong plan, and I wish we had a doctor who would help us with that lifelong plan, which I think is desperately needed for families who have loved ones who are struggling or who are struggling themselves."
Cornell was honored earlier this month at a tribute concert in Los Angeles, where the remaining members of SOUNDGARDEN and AUDIOSLAVE, along with METALLICA, FOO FIGHTERS and others, performed.
A box set featuring music from all three of Cornell's bands, as well as his solo records, was issued in November.
WATCH LIVE: Vicky Cornell, widowed wife of singer Chris Cornell, speaks at the United Nations discussing the stigma and disease of addiction.
She is joined by David Sheff, the author of “Beautiful Boy,” and Dr. Nora D Volkow, Director of the U.S. Nation Institute of Drug Abuse for the UN’s campaign “Leaving No One Behind”: The Drug Epidemic as a Global Health Challenge.Posted by Good Morning America on Thursday, January 24, 2019