Jared Leto is looking back on his experience with drug addiction, and the "epiphany" that made him change his ways.
The Dallas Buyers Club actor, 51, opened up to Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 about his untraditional childhood and how he found himself using drugs at a young age.
Leto told Lowe that he was surrounded by artists growing up, and that they influenced his creative pursuits. However, the 30 Seconds to Mars singer was also influenced by their frequent drug use.
"We wouldn't be here obviously if we didn't have that exposure to the arts, and creativity," he said, whispering "and the drugs" with a deadpan face. “I grew up in an environment where there were drugs around. I knew what the smell of weed is as a very, very young kid."
As he got older, the My So-Called Life alum became more fascinated by experimentation.
"I was always interested in drugs. I was always interested in an experience. I was always interested in taking some risk,” he explained. “And I think that's probably common for people that like to experiment or explore probably some common things.”
However, he eventually learned the downside of his experimentation as his drug use escalated. During art school, he was studying to be a painter, "as well as a professional drug user" and "not a bad [drug] dealer either," he joked.
"Addiction is a whole other part of it. Taking drugs is one thing, but does it start taking you?” Leto questioned. “My experience was certainly one that I took it for a ride and then it took me for a ride, for sure.”
His decision to change his way came after he had an "epiphany."
"I had a moment of clarity, that's what they call it. I knew that I wanted to hopefully accomplish things in my life that I was proud of, to do something special with my life," he explained. "There were two paths that I could take in life … a sudden moment of clarity — to say for the third time, I guess — is the only way I can describe it. And I took that path and I've had very close friends that didn't. And they're not here anymore.”
Leto went on to earn acclaim for his role as Harry Goldfarb, a man struggling with heroin use, in the 2000 film Requiem for a Dream.
This wasn't the first time Leto revealed his past experience with drugs. Back in 2016, he told Rolling Stone that he did "lots of them."
"A lot of them were really fun. There are just those few that tend to kick you in the ass," he explained. "I guess at some point, too, there's a decision: Is this going to be my life? I made a choice to pursue other dreams."
In the present day, Leto has a variety of methods he utilizes to care for his mental health. A devout practitioner of Vipassana Meditation, he credits the practice with helping him get through the lockdown period of the COVID pandemic, which he only discovered was happening after he was released from a 12-day silent meditation retreat in the desert.
"Vipassana is about seeing clearly, so in some ways it was what I needed to prepare me for being alone in lockdown," he told W last year. "It ended up being a really important time for me creatively."
Leto has also served as an advocate for others struggling with mental health issues. Following the 2017 suicide of his friend, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, Leto spoke onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards about the musician's influence on his life, and reminded the audience they are "not alone" when they struggle with their mental health.
"There is always a way forward," he told the audience. "Reach out, share your thoughts, do not give up, and I promise you this. The absolute biggest breakthroughs in life lie just beyond the darkest days,”
Leto has also worked to minimize the stigma of mental health struggles in his own music. In the description of the 2018 music video for the 30 Seconds to Mars song "Rescue Me," Leto explained that the tune was "about the brutal war so many of us wage against fear, depression and anxiety in the hope that we might, one day, live a life filled with happiness and dreams." The description is closed out with links to mental health and suicide prevention organizations.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 988.