Duff McKagan Talks Mental Health With Lily Cornell: 'Cocaine Is Not Good for Panic Attacks'

Navigating the hardships of addiction with the Guns 'n Roses star

August 12, 2020
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Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan joined Lily Cornell Silver on her weekly IGTV series Mind Wide Open, to discuss his experience managing mental health expectations while struggling from addiction.

Duff’s first recognized his mental health issues at 16 years old experiencing a panic attack. “Suddenly the floor dropped like, three feet… Suddenly I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “It ran in my family. Some of my brothers and sisters had this, but my brothers were so much older and it just wasn’t cool to talk about.”

Lily empathized with the Guns N’ Roses, star talking about her late father, Chris Cornell’s, battle with addiction.

“What happens is, with alcohol, there’s so much sugar in alcohol, with a guy like myself and I think with your dad, as well," McKagan told Lily, "you can’t just do a little. In my case I got up to a full gallon of vodka a day. And then I was doing cocaine, too."

"Cocaine is not good for panic attacks. So I would take pills to bring me down from too much cocaine and alcohol.”

McKagan said he began abusing Xanax at 30, when his pancreas burst. He explained how pills became a fall back for his addiction and only exacerbated his problem with alcohol. “I was in Europe with Velvet Revolver. I wasn’t having a panic attack. I was under a lot of stress, so I took one of the pills for stress and with this kind of combination of alcoholism and pills… I’m here to tell ya, don’t start taking those pills for another reason.”

The artist told Cornell he uses physical activity to cope with urges and pangs he struggles with today. “What I do is just get in my gym. That’s how I deal. Even if I don’t feel like it, I’ll get on the elliptical and go hard.”

Despite his battle with addiction, Duff continues to make new music. His wife Susan Holmes McKagan appeared on an episode of the “Appetite for Distortion” podcast and revealed Guns N’ Roses are busy in the studio. “I can’t say much, but I’ve heard bits and bobs and it’s pretty epic. I do wanna spread the good news, but not detailed news, I guess.”

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