In an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts that aired Wednesday morning, Vicky Cornell, the wife of late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, opened up about her husband’s battle with addiction before his suicide last May. Vicky, who married Cornell in 2004, repeats her belief that drugs played a significant role in the singer’s death: He had seven different substances in his system at the time of his death.
Cornell had struggled with substance abuse at several points during his adult life and admitted in 2009 that he had been in rehab for an addiction to OxyContin. He said at the time he had been sober since 2002, but Vicky says that his behavior changed after he was prescribed the painkiller benzodiazepine, approximately a year before his death, to help him sleep after a shoulder injury.
“In retrospect I’ve learned it’s not supposed to be given to anyone who’s in recovery, and if you have to give it, they have to be closely monitored and it should not be given for more than two or three weeks,” she told Roberts. “So he relapsed, and in a seven-day period he took 20-something pills, and in a nine-day period, 33.
“He had really delayed speech, he was forgetful, there were moments where I thought there was some confusion,” she continued. “The brain of someone who has a substance use disorder is different from that of … someone who doesn’t. He relapsed.”
Cornell emailed a friend saying that he’d relapsed and wanted to talk, but on May 18, 2017, the singer was found dead in a hotel room after performing in Detroit. Vicky says Cornell’s behavior during the concert shows the effect the drugs were having.
“He was off-pitch, he forgot words, he walked offstage,” she said. “Chris Cornell didn’t do those kinds of things.” Asked if she believed Cornell knew what he was doing at the time of his death, she said, “I don’t think he could make any decisions because of the level of impairment.”
Roberts noted that addiction is often not treated as a disease. Asked if she had any parting message about addiction, Vicky said, “People think addiction is a choice and it’s not. It’s in all of our houses, it has no boundaries, and I think if there was less stigma around it more people would speak up.”