Kurt Cobrain - Health History

Health History

Throughout most of his life, Cobain suffered from chronic bronchitis and intense physical pain due to an undiagnosed chronic stomach condition. His first drug experience was with marijuana in 1980, at age 13. He regularly used the drug during adulthood. Cobain also had a period of consuming "notable" amounts of LSD, as observed by Tracy Marander, and was "really into getting fucked up: drugs, acid, any kind of drug", observed Krist Novoselic; Cobain was also prone to alcoholism and solvent abuse. Cobain's cousin Beverly, a nurse, claimed Cobain was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as a child, and bipolar disorder as an adult. She also brought attention to the history of suicide, mental illness and alcoholism in the Cobain family, noting two of her uncles who had committed suicide with guns.

Cobain's stomach condition was emotionally debilitating to him, and he intermittently tried to find its cause, usually at the insistence of Love. None of the many doctors he consulted were able to pinpoint the specific cause though some suggested he was suffering from a rare form of cancer. He suffered from an acute self-consciousness and developed a poor body image, due to his low body weight; which was primarily due to malnourishment caused by his stomach condition, medicines taken as part of treatment for cancer and poor diet (attested to by numerous doctors), or a combination of all three.

Cobain's first experience with heroin occurred sometime in 1986, administered to him by a local drug dealer in Tacoma, Washington who had previously supplied him with Percodan. He used heroin sporadically for several years, but, by the end of 1990, his use developed into a full-fledged addiction. Cobain claimed that he was "determined to get a habit" as a way to self-medicate his stomach condition. "It started with three days in a row of doing heroin and I don't have a stomach pain. That was such a relief," he related.

His heroin use began to affect the band's Nevermind supporting tour. One memorable example came the day of the band's 1992 performance on Saturday Night Live, where Nirvana had a photographic session with photographer Michael Levine. Having taken heroin beforehand, Cobain fell asleep several times during the shoot. Cobain divulged to biographer Michael Azerrad, "I mean, what are they supposed to do? They're not going to be able to tell me to stop. So I really didn't care. Obviously to them it was like practicing witchcraft or something. They didn't know anything about it so they thought that any second, I was going to die."

Slowly, Cobain's heroin addiction worsened. His first attempt at rehab was made in early 1992, not long after he and Love discovered they were going to become parents. Immediately after leaving rehab, Nirvana embarked on their Australian tour, with Cobain appearing pale and gaunt while suffering through withdrawals. Not long after returning home, Cobain's heroin use resumed.

Prior to a performance at the New Music Seminar in New York City in July 1993, Cobain suffered a heroin overdose. Rather than calling for an ambulance, Love injected Cobain with Narcan to bring him out of his unconscious state. Cobain proceeded to perform with Nirvana, giving the public no indication that anything out of the ordinary had taken place.

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