How Steven Adler’s Brother Kidnapped Him to Help Him Kick Heroin
The elder Adler had battled heroin addiction for decades, leading to his firing from Guns N' Roses in 1990. He was once again in dire straits in 2007, leading Jamie – 10 years his junior – to risk jail time in hopes of saving his brother's life.
“I was just so proud of my brother; he was my hero,” Jamie recently told Yahoo in a three-part feature. “Never believed in rules. … He’d just stay out all hours of the night, partying and getting wasted. But my brother in my eyes could do no wrong. Whenever I saw him, he would give me the biggest hug.”
That was until 1987, when former GN'R manager Doug Goldstein told Adler's parents about his heroin habit. “The guy was getting loaded, and we were in denial,” Jamie said. “'Cause you never want to believe that your brother’s in the bathroom for 30 minutes shooting heroin, or smoking heroin. But he’s doing it every couple hours, and you’re just watching TV. You don’t want to admit it.”
Watch Guns N' Roses Play 'Welcome to the Jungle' in 1988
One time, a teenage Jamie watched as Steven took heroin in a limo. “We're sitting there, and he had this little bag, this little hippie sack. And he pulls out tinfoil, this little balloon, and a lighter. And he starts smoking heroin," he recalled. "I was 14 and he's fucking smoking heroin right in front of me. I’m like, ‘What the fuck are you doing, dude?’ He’s like, ‘You don’t understand what it’s like to be me, to be a celebrity. … It’s just a lot of pressure.’ I’m like, ‘Bro, smoke fucking weed.’ He says, ‘I wish it was that easy… But don't worry, I’m not addicted to this shit.’
“And then he started convincing me that it’s not as bad as I think. But he also said, ‘Please don’t tell Mom. We’re brothers. Whatever happens when we’re together, that’s just between us.’ I never told mom. But I was just so hurt.”
Adler's addiction led to his estrangement from his family (although he reconnected on occasion) and dismissal from the biggest rock band in the world. After Matt Sorum replaced Adler in 1991, Jamie recalled: “I remember telling his friends and other people around, ‘Let’s go get Steven. Let’s go tie him up, hold him hostage in some room some place and get him off these fucking drugs. Let’s go kidnap him.’ But nobody would ever listen to me. Because everyone knew that if you went against Steven, you were out of the circle.”
But in 2007, Jamie — who’d by then built a career as a top booking agent for rock and hip-hop acts — put that plan into action. He acted after Steven contracted a potentially fatal blood infection and needed to take carefully regulated medication. “The doctors told him and my mom that he needs to take this medication for the next 30 days to clean out his blood,” Jamie said. “And if he doesn't do this, he will die. I said, ‘This is going to be my last hoorah with my brother. This is going to be the last time I’m going to be able to try to save this guy.’ … I needed to get him under our control.”
Jamie recruited then-former GN'R guitarist Slash to help and went to Las Vegas to retrieve his brother from his latest drug daze, persuading him to come out of his darkened bedroom on the promise that he’d brought weed for him. “He just looked so bad. So frail and sickly and deathly,” Jamie recalled. “I think he went into the bathroom and threw up all over the place.”
A two-hour intervention followed, during which Slash said he’d do anything to help, only for Adler to blame the guitarist for his condition. “And Slash just sat there and took it,” Jamie remembered. “I always loved Slash for that.”
The hospital put Adler on a 72-hour hold, giving Jamie time to start administering the medication.
Adler needed immediate hospital care and was placed on a 72-hour hold, which gave Jamie time to start administering the medication. But the drummer fought back, attacking hospital staff, leading his brother to make a decision: “I said, ‘Fuck it. We’re gonna go and literally kidnap this dude.’” Three days later, they offered him one of his favorite milkshakes, laced with enough Valium and Xanax "to kill a fucking horse,” Jamie admitted.
Watch Steven Adler's Final Show With Guns N' Roses in 1990
For the next month, Jamie moved his brother between three secure buildings in North Hollywood, with two full-time guards watching him. Adler tried to escape every day, fighting “tooth and nail the whole time.” He told his brother: “You could keep me here for a week, a month, a year, 10 years. As soon as I leave here, first thing I'm going to do is go get high. And there’s nothing you could do about it.”
That’s exactly what the drummer did — and although he continued to struggle, he eventually straightened out. (Much of the struggle was documented on the TV shows Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew and Sober House) Jamie’s desperate measures left an open wound in their brotherhood. “It was so bad that to this day, we still don’t have a relationship," he said.
Revealing that he hadn’t spoken to Steven in five years, Jamie added: “I could call my brother right now and he wouldn’t know my three kids’ names. That’s fucking family, I guess.”
Jamie was proud to attend Steven’s onstage reunion with GN'R in 2016, even though he wasn’t invited. “I’m literally standing there in tears,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘This is the greatest moment of my fucking life. I got my brother back on stage with fucking Guns N’ Roses. And that's how I felt. The truth is, Steven might have relapsed a couple times, but after we did what we did, he never was a junkie again."
Watch Steven Adler Reunite With Guns N' Roses in 2016
The pair did speak about the incident once, in 2017. “I said, ‘Listen, I’m sorry, but I’m also not sorry. I didn’t know what else to do. I literally thought you were gonna die,’" Jamie recalled. "He says, ‘I love you, little brother. I know exactly what you did, and thank you.’ In his clearest moment, he validated everything that I wanted. He gave me that credit and respect, and that’s all I ever wanted. So no matter whatever happened after that, I know that deep down inside, he knows that I did what I did out of love. And I know I did the right thing because my brother is still alive.”