"Getting addicted to drugs and alcohol was never my intention... I was lucky to survive": Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan on the brutal realities of rock 'n' roll excess

Duff McKagan
(Image credit: Charles Peterson)

Duff McKagan has spoken up about losing close friends to alcohol and drug addiction, and the challenges of trying to manage one's mental health within the music industry.

In a new interview with The Guardian, Guns N' Roses' bassist admits that he was lucky to survive his own battles with alcohol and substance abuse, and discusses how the discourse around mental course has changed across his decades in the spotlight.

In the interview, McKagan reveals that he has suffered from panic attacks since the age of 16 -  "It felt like the ground sunk three feet," he says, "I thought it was an earthquake" - and that his attempts to self-medicate with alcohol to manage his condition, could have cost him his life.

The bassist says, “With panic disorders and depression, it’s not being bummed out about life, it’s a chemical imbalance that’ll sweep you off your fucking feet.”

McKagan notes that 30 years ago - when he was warned by doctors that he would have mere weeks to live if he didn't clean up - mental health was simply not discussed in a serious way within the music business.

"It just wasn’t talked about," he says. "I don’t know who I would have told about it. I just thought I was going fucking crazy. I’m a sensitive human, I didn’t really go through any of that macho rock star stuff. I wanted to be a great musician, and musicians are sensitive souls – even the gnarliest, like Mark Lanegan! Getting addicted to drugs and alcohol was never my intention. There’s nothing glamorous about it, and I was lucky to survive."

Mckagan also touches upon the loss of his friends Taylor Hawkins and Scott Weiland, and admits that he feels lucky that he's been given the opportunity to help raise awareness for others.

"We’ve had so much loss from drugs that you end up feeling like you’re here for a reason, man," he says. "And if I can raise my hand about certain issues like panic attacks, depression and sobriety while I’m here in my second act, I’ll do it.”

The full interview with Duff McKagan is on The Guardian's website.

The bassist releases his new solo album Lighthouse on October 20 on BFD/Orchard/Sony.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.