Beckett Cypher, the son of rock and country singer Melissa Etheridge, died at age 21 due to an opioid overdose. Cypher was the biological son of singer-songwriter David Crosby, who donated his sperm to Etheridge years prior and has battled addiction throughout his life. An addiction expert told The Daily Mail that addiction is driven by genetics. The U.S. is still in the midst of a public health emergency due to opioid addiction, with an estimated 130 people dying from opioid-related drug overdoses each day, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
"Research tells us that 40–60% of the risk for developing addiction is driven by genetics," Emily Feinstein, the chief operating officer of the Manhattan-based Center on Addiction, told the Daily Mail Friday. According to the Center on Addiction, genetic predisposition is an addiction risk factor. Others include psychological factors like stress, depression and anxiety; environmental influences, including substance abuse in the family; and starting drug use at an early age. "Having one or more of these addiction risk factors does not mean someone will become addicted, but it does mean the odds are greater. The more risk factors present, the greater the chance that an individual will develop the disease," the center notes.
Cypher was raised by Etheridge and her ex-partner, Julie Cypher. The former couple also welcomed daughter Bailey in February 1997. It was later revealed that Crosby was the biological father for both children. On Wednesday, Etheridge's team announced Cypher's death, with Etheridge later confirming the cause of death on Instagram. The singer revealed her son battled opioid addiction for some time before his death.
"Today I joined the hundreds of thousands of families who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction," Etheridge wrote. "My son Beckett, who was just 21, struggled to overcome his addiction and finally succumbed to it today. He will be missed by those who loved him, his friends and family."
Crosby has not spoken out on Cypher's death, aside from some comments on Twitter. When one person claimed Crosby was only a donor and "played no other part" in Cypher's life, Crosby replied, "not true." Another fan asked him if he thought Stephen Stills, Graham Nash or Neil Young would reach out to express their condolences. "I doubt it but ...you never know," the former Byrds singer replied.
Etheridge and Cypher revealed Crosby was the sperm donor for both their children in interviews with Rolling Stone and 60 Minutes in 2000. "Melissa and Julie are good people," Crosby told Rolling Stone at the time. "Nice set of values, they're funnier than s—, and they've got courage. All rare stuff. You could see that they were in love with each other. And they said something like, 'When you start talking about egg donors or adoption, or sperm donors, somebody very often goes, 'Oh, lesbians. Wait a minute. Let me back up.' And they start to get weird.'"