Since losing her husband, Vicky Cornell has become an advocate for improving addiction treatment and spreading awareness about addiction.
Vicky Cornell, widow of Soundgarden and Audioslave singer Chris Cornell, went before the Bipartisan Heroin And Opioid Task Force on Monday to make a case for better training and education on addiction for doctors.
Chris Cornell died by suicide in 2017 after struggling with depression and addiction for many years, and multiple medications were found in his system by the autopsy, including a barbiturate sedative and the benzodiazepine anti-anxiety medication Ativan. The drugs had been prescribed to him, leading Vicky to file a malpractice suit against the doctor.
Although it was determined that the drugs did not directly contribute to Chris’ death, Vicky released a statement to the press soon after her husband’s death blaming the substances for causing a lapse in judgment that led to his death.
“We have learned from this report that several substances were found in his system,” the statement read. “After so many years of sobriety, this moment of terrible judgment seems to have completely impaired and altered his state of mind. Something clearly went terribly wrong and my children and I are heartbroken and are devastated that this moment can never be taken back.”
Since losing her husband, Vicky Cornell has been an advocate for improving addiction treatment and promoting the proper education in medical fields and for the general public.
“The part that hurts most is Chris’ death was not inevitable, there were no demons that took over,” she said to the task force. “Chris had a brain disease and a doctor who unfortunately, like many, was not properly trained or educated on addiction.”
Chris Cornell often spoke about his experience with mental illness, drug use, and addiction. In 2006, he told Spin that he was diagnosed with panic disorder and believes it was a direct result of a bad experience with PCP that left him “more or less agoraphobic.”
After that, he avoided drugs until his 20s, but started drinking at a young age and became an alcoholic. After Soundgarden broke up and his first marriage began to fall apart, Chris began experimenting with OxyContin. He entered rehab in 2002 and was able to quit using alcohol and tobacco by 2005.
Years later, according to Vicky Cornell’s suit, her husband’s doctor prescribed him the Ativan, a drug widely considered to be addictive, for 20 months without seeing the patient for a checkup. Chris told Vicky on the night of his death that he had taken an extra Ativan and was acting strangely.
Now, she wants to make sure it never happens again.
“We must integrate addiction treatment into our health care system,” she said on Capitol Hill. “No more false narratives about the need to hit rock bottom, no more secret societies, no more shame — we must educate health care providers on how to treat addiction and best support recovery.”