How Heroin Nearly Destroyed The Strokes

Not even the Strokes were safe from the infamous presence of drugs that haunts the world of rock and roll.

The infamous trio of sex, drugs, and rock and roll has been part of this music genre's history since the beginning. So, it’s no surprise that we have hundreds of stories about bands, groupies, and other famous icons being dragged by the excesses of this lifestyle, as well as the most destructive element of this trio: drugs. Sometimes all they have are outrageous yet funny anecdotes, but sometimes drugs can send artists into a downward spiral that ends their career, or at worst, their lives. A lot of the most famous rock bands in history have had some of their members –if not all– struggle with drug addiction. The Strokes were no exception, and it almost tore them apart.


Let’s go back to the early 2000s. Although Julian Casablancas, Nick Valensi, Albert Hammond Jr., Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti formed the band in 1998, it reached its height in 2001 with the release of their album Is This It, which garnered wide acclaim from critics and fans alike. Nonetheless, as they rose to fame, a shadow was cast upon them almost at the same time: their guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.'s drug use. In Lizzy Goodman’s book Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City, 2001-2011, the band revealed how their musical project was almost ruined when Albert started doing heroin. But more importantly, according to his bandmates and Hammond himself, musician Ryan Adams was behind this addiction.


“Ryan would always come and wake me at two in the morning and have drugs, so I’d just do the drugs and kind of numb out. I knew I would shoot up drugs from a very young age. I’d been wanting to do heroin since I was 14 years old.” 

According to the band’s version of the story, Ryan Adams was the one who first introduced Albert to drugs, which they would consume whenever they were together. However, the rest of the band, especially Julian, wasn't okay with that from the beginning. Hammond recalls that they were so unhappy about it that one time Julian threatened to beat up Adams if he ever hung out with their bandmate again, as a means to keep him away from drug consumption. While Julian doesn’t remember the incident like that, he did state that he believed doing heroin was just “crossing a line” because “it can take a person’s soul away.” And apparently, Casablancas was right. In the following years, Hammond started doing other opiates besides heroin, and he was so addicted that it started dragging his attention away from his musical career and onto drugs. In 2009, he hit rock bottom, and his bandmates, along with his mother, did an intervention to convince him to go to rehab. 


Fortunately, the band survived this crisis, and now Albert Hammond is clean. However, let’s not forget about Ryan Adams’ version of the story, which is also included in Goodman’s book. The musician denies all the accusations about how he was the one who introduced Hammond to drugs. He claims he was just Albert’s friend and they would just smoke cigarettes, drink, and write music. He also says that he was the one who supported Albert and always listened to his songs when no one else did. Basically, he says he was turned into a scapegoat for his former friend’s addiction. Adams even went on a Twitter rant after he saw how in Goodman’s book the band shows him as the “bad influence” in Hammond’s life.


The fact that there are different versions of the story makes it difficult to determine what the truth is, or whether each one is a piece of the same story. But regardless of what version we believe, we can all agree that the presence of drugs nearly destroyed not only the career of such an important band as The Strokes, but also the life of their guitarist. These stories from the world of rock and roll are, perhaps, better ways to persuade people not to do drugs than any ad or campaign.