When boxer Johnny Tapia died in New Mexico, his recurring cocaine addiction was not what people remembered nearly as much as his big-hearted nature. Despite being banned from the sport at times and landing in jail, Johnny was known for his welcoming nature when he was out of the ring. In the ring, he was known as a fierce, furious fighter who was only ever knocked down twice in his career.
But cocaine was a demon he could not fully escape for much of his career. He barely survived overdoses and recently told his wife that he thought he would not live much longer. Finally, on May 27, he took a final knockout punch at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The LA Times story on his passing reported that Tapia was banned from boxing for more than three years in the early 1990s because of his cocaine addiction. He went on to win more championship titles after he got himself cleaned up and returned to boxing.
In his autobiography, he reported that he had been declared dead four times due to drug overdoses. But he always managed to recover. In 2007, Johnny overdosed on cocaine and was hospitalized in critical condition. He went to rehab at that time but was unable to complete the program due to health problems, according to ESPN.
Did Cocaine Kill Johnny?
Until toxicology reports are complete, it won’t be known if Johnny had cocaine in his system when he died. But the test results may not be all that significant. Cocaine is a strong stimulant that stresses the heart and vascular system as it increases blood pressure and constricts blood vessels at the same time. When Whitney Houston died, it was noted in her autopsy reports that heart damage and cocaine use contributed to her death. Decades of cocaine abuse as well as all his years of boxing undoubtedly took their toll on Johnny Tapia’s body.
Why Didn’t Johnny Quit Using Cocaine?
If a person has never been addicted, it can be just about impossible to understand why a person continues to use a drug that does so much damage to their life and health. The answer lies in the nature of addiction. As explained in the booklet “The Truth About Becoming Addicted” from Narconon Arrowhead, drug use initially solves a problem for a person. The drug (cocaine, heroin, marijuana, alcohol or other substance) then becomes valuable to the person as it makes them feel less stressed, more confident, relaxed or excited, depending on which drug is used.
Despite a person’s best intentions to quit using the drug, the cravings and the apparent benefit of using the drug keep him (or her) trapped in addiction. Guilt piles up and contributes to the addicted person’s depression.
Could this be an accurate description of the life led by Johnny Tapia? In 2003, he was rushed to the hospital after he collapsed at home. In confusing news articles from the time, he had reportedly been on a drug and alcohol binge, in a police standoff (they were seeking a relative of his) and had a head injury. When he was released from the hospital, his wife reported that he was “depressed but otherwise healthy.”