Substance Abuse & Music

Updated: Mar 29, 2019



With music industry success also comes increased social demands where substances, like heroin, cocaine, and alcohol, are readily available. Once the drug of choice is tried, it can become a way for music professionals to center their mind when dealing with the anxieties of the entertainment business. The music community turns to drugs and alcohol for different reasons. Some may believe that it helps with maintaining their branding, makes the job feel easier, or increases creativity. Other musicians feel that drugs and alcohol are part of the party that the crowd expects. While addiction is treatable, regardless of the reason for drug and alcohol abuse, the disease among musicians has been an issue since the 1920s in the United States.

Substance abuse is associated with an activity for people using to disassociate when they are down, experienced a loss, suffered to some degree, have fallen on hard times, cannot seem to make it in life, or found a major failing in their lives. Even though working the entertainment industry is a luxury, musicians have three to four times the chances of abusing drugs and alcohol than other people in other careers. Five factors affecting substance abuse in the music industry:

1. Environment

One is more likely to get involved with drugs if or when they are in a situation where everyone around them is doing those drugs all the time. The drunk and high culture created by the party atmosphere of the industry is a mindset many people are raised in or pressured into.

2. Self Image

Certain artists have based their branding on the good vibes only concept, and as such may feel like not participating in substances may conflict with their image. The stress of certain expectations of having a particular attitude in the industry creates conditions for music business people to self medicate.

3. Relationships

Often dealers will make extra efforts to make contacts in the music industry because that is their target market, substance abuse can be a result of this extra attention from suppliers. Touring, shows, and nightlife can be strenuous on personal connections, giving artists who may be experiencing other rough conditions additional opportunities to partake in the vices of their surrounding environment.

4. Youth

Commercialization and ageism in the entertainment industry make it easiest to build a foundation for music careers before age 35, bringing a difficult lifestyle to potentially inexperienced and immature workers. Because people usually experience with substances in their youth, their minds are exposed to certain chemicals that permanently alter the brain to being predisposed for responsiveness to cues for dopamine.

5. Mental Health

The behavior of addicts is affected due to impairments in the regions of the brain that affect moral cognition and emotion. Human sociobiology raises important questions about the predispositions for damage in the brain for people who have committed crimes and treatment within legal ethics impacting mass incarceration.

The best way to tackle substance abuse problems are by addressing them first hand. Once awareness is established, support then put to use inpatient, residential, drug and alcohol addiction and dependence treatment centers, detox facilities, rehab programs, and recovery organizations. With proper rehab and treatment, any musician who deals with addiction can find a system that works for them to manage their struggles along with their career.

Links: Selected Readings in Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing (pg 440)

Bands & Drugs: Talented Musicians Falling into Addiction

Music Industry Addresses Drug Culture

Opiates and Musicians

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WhitnessThis Photography