The love from one brother to another aims to address an epidemic and save the reputation of a profession.
Tork Barayan, a doctorate student in pharmacy, released his first song, “War on Drugs,” under the alias King Rx in September, which highlights his experience with the opioid epidemic both from a personal and professional level. The song will be a part of the rapper’s future album, “Dreamland,” inspired by the book by Sam Quinones written on the American opioid epidemic, Barayan said.
“War on Drugs” started off as an eight-line poem Barayan wrote in a college course. He said he wandered off and let his thoughts correspond with the class’s lecture topic: opioid abuse and misuse.
“Different ideas formed on the paper. The ideas turned into sentences, the sentences turned into rhymes, and I wound up with eight lines,” Barayan said.
As Barayan’s schooling progressed, he said he continued to develop the eight lines into a song. He stopped working on the song until his brother’s death due to a heroin overdose in 2019, which inspired him to continue his songwriting.
“The song was in a hiatus for a while,” Barayan said. “Then he passed and so, for one, that motivated me to tell his story, in a sense. And so that momentum kept going. ‘Why can’t I do more than a song? Why can’t I make an entire musical project on this?’”
He said his album “Dreamland” aims to start a revolution against the spread of misinformation during the opioid epidemic. The album is still in the creation process and does not have a set release date, Barayan said.
Barayan said he is using music to spread a message people may not read about. He said the album’s goal is to educate the public about drug overdose and its stigma in society.
He said he believes the overprescribing of prescription drugs by doctors is contributing to addiction and nationwide overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were close to 70,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2018. Two out of three of those deaths were related to an opioid prescription.
Barayan said that, as a pharmacy student and someone who’s been personally affected by drug misuse, he believes he is best suited to help end the stigma against drugs and pharmacists, saving future lives.
“I can’t wake up tomorrow and not be affected by this,” Barayan said.
He said he is driven by his love for his brother and his passion to save the reputation of pharmacists and those impacted by opioid addiction.
“What has happened after the epidemic was [the] public’s opinion of healthcare professionals, especially those in the pharmaceutical industry, has dropped,” Barayan said. “In terms of the institutional viewpoint in general, it is on us to rebuild that trust with the community.”
Barayan said he hopes to learn from America’s mistakes of the past in handling the opioid epidemic. He believes there is a contributing factor to every overdose, whether it be driven by socioeconomic status or overprescribing
“The stigma behind drugs in general, unfortunately, is very negative. It’s associated with people with low morale. It’s associated with crime and maliciousness. But I personally believe that there is a story behind every addiction because not every person is an addict; they are just people going through addiction,” Barayan said.