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Macklemore Helps Obama Raise Awareness About Opioid Abuse

Speaking with Obama during his weekly address, the hip-hop artist opened up about his own experience with drug abuse.
President Obama and Macklemore.
President Obama and

Grammy-winning rapper Macklemore joined President Barack Obama on Saturday for a candid conversation about addiction, days after the House of Representatives passed several bills to combat opioid abuse.

Speaking with Obama during his weekly address, the hip-hop artist opened up about his own experience with drug abuse.

President Obama and

"I’m here with President Obama because I take this personally," he said, according to prepared remarks from the weekly address transcript. "I abused prescription drugs and battled addiction. If I hadn’t gotten the help I needed when I needed it, I might not be here today."

Deaths from drug overdoses have tripled since 2000, and now take more lives every year than traffic accidents, according to the White House.

The issue has come to the forefront again with the death last month of music legend Prince, who was reportedly being treated for an addiction to painkillers before he collapsed at his Minnesota estate. A lawyer for the doctor who was supposed to meet with Prince before he died said the doctor's son had brought buprenorphine to the home, used to help opioid addicts withdraw from painkillers.

An autopsy was performed on Prince, but a cause of death has not been released.

Obama said during his address that often, drug overdoses are from legal drugs prescribed by a doctor.

"So addiction doesn’t always start in some dark alley — it often starts in a medicine cabinet," he added.

Macklemore, 32, whose real name is Ben Haggerty and who is best known for his 2013 collaboration, "Thrift Shop," with producer Ryan Lewis, said a friend of his died at age 21 after overdosing on painkillers.

Treatment and a 12-step program saved his own life, Macklemore said.

" We have to tell people who need help that it’s OK to ask for it. We’ve got to make sure they know where to get it," he added.

The discussion comes on the heels of a flurry of legislation passed by the House to help states pay for addiction prevention and treatment. A bill passed Thursday would authorize $103 million a year, but wouldn't actually provide the cash — a point the Obama administration took issue with.

“These trends will not change by simply authorizing new grant programs, studies and reports,” the administration said, referring to the more than 28,000 Americans who died in 2014 from opioid overdoses — the highest level ever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The House also voted Wednesday to pass a bill that would require a new task force to review best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medicine.

The bills don't go far enough, Obama reiterated in his address.

"Unless they also make actual investments in more treatment, it won’t get Americans the help they need," he said.

More from Macklemore and Obama's conversation on opioid abuse will air in an MTV documentary on addiction this summer.