Do Musicians Become Addicts More Often Than Others?

Do Musicians Become Addicts More Often Than Others?

Do musicians become addicts more often than other people do? This is an unusual question, but either through circumstance or luck, it seems that musicians are indeed more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcoholism than others. Maybe it’s more of an instance of rich people becoming likelier to turn into addicts because the richer you are the more accessible and affordable drugs can be, especially when it comes to drugs like cocaine and ecstasy. With that said, why is it that musicians become addicts as a tendency? Is it the culture of music itself? Is it because drugs can make one more creative? Is it a method of coping with success or lack thereof? Are creatives naturally prone to addiction and addictive substances due to their unique talents?

History of Musicians Associated with Drug Use

Musicians used to be associated with drug and alcohol abuse, like it is part and parcel of the culture of hedonistic pleasure and success. However, it’s not necessarily a result of manipulation, wealth, and fame. Instead, it’s a consequence of spending time in the music world’s rank and file where they face poverty and anonymity. For every rock star who’s infamous for excessive drug use and a hard partying lifestyle like Sid Vicious or Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols, there are the poor musicians doing gigs at the local bar for pennies.

  • Past and Present Drug Addiction: Many musicians conquer the deep-seated predilections towards behavior that’s escapist, finding new ways to create their “repeatable dreams” without resorting to drugs to help their motivation or muses out. Since the 1930s, drug use in music has been a hot topic of conversation. There’s an old saying of “wine, women, and song,” that associates music with using various substances as well as bedding women and whatnot to celebrate the celebrity life of a popular musician. This saying has existed many centuries before.
  • Coping Mechanism: For every band like the Beatles who used drugs to enhance their creativity and redefine how pop music is made for generations to come, there are bands who use drugs and alcohol because of the influence of their peers in order to deal with their self-perceived failure and frustration in many areas of their life. Musical success is gifted to only a handful of people, with it being a combination of luck and hard work to put them at the top. Some musicians simply use drugs to cope with the fact that their talent was overlooked.
  • Paying Your Dues for Playing the Blues: The hardship of being a musician trying to become successful instead of someone instantly getting a contract is paying your dues. You have to go through poverty, anonymity, and the long wait for a big break. Drugs and alcohol come to that equation not just because of success but also because of strife, where one takes them in order to cope. Substance abuse is likelier to happen to musicians as paralleled in the subculture of poverty instead of the subculture of hedonistic richness.
  • Irresistible Habits: Once you’re hooked on something, whether it’s smoking, drinking, or doing drugs, they tend to stick. It’s especially true of hard Schedule I drugs known to be super-addictive. Therefore, some musicians tend to carry this load on their back throughout their musical career or even throughout their life. Even if they become rich and famous later on, they will succumb to the inevitable results of excessive abuse. Probably doesn’t help if they became superstars by celebrating drug culture and usage, as in the case of many rappers, pop stars, or rock stars.
  • Artists Who Go Against The Grain: The Who’s Peter Townshend is a contrasting example to hard rockers who do hard drugs. He’s a person who labels musical artists who embrace materialist drug use and defy their fans as irresponsible and “decadent assholes”. Miley Cyrus, before she started taking MMA and cocaine, was a pop star who was all about being sober and anti-drug. Both of them gained press for their anti-drug views, although Miley ended up betraying her views later on for more press. According to John Denver, critics should stop trying to find hidden innuendo on “Rocky Mountain High” a la “The Dark Side of the Moon”.

Musicians Causing Drug Use in the Populace


Aside from the seeming trend of music culture leading musicians to drug use, these same musicians that sing about drugs whether to relate their experiences, share their stories, or celebrate the drug culture in a deep or humorous way, might be able to lead youngsters into using drugs as well. Media can influence the youth to doing anything that’s trendy, although as cited above some people argue that it’s the trends that influence music and their presence in music is just a reflection of the times.

  • Plagued with Alcohol and Drug Addition: Many musicians, particularly performers who perform on stage for concerts and tours, are plagued with addiction to substances. In the 1920s, it was Bix Beiderbecke. In the 2000s, it was Amy Winehouse. In the modern era of music, many high-profile musicians have had to deal with similarly high-profile struggles. Furthermore, every local performer who’ve ever played music for a short period of time will confess that it’s easy to find musicians who are high, drunk, or strung out. When meeting people who smoke cigarettes is rarer in America due to the cigarette dangers being made known publicly, finding musicians using hard drugs is so common that it might as well be a cliché.
  • Challenges Causing Addiction and Studies about Them: Aside from the economical and psychological reasons for using drugs as a musician, there are also legal, cultural, and social challenges linked towards music and drug use. This has prompted scientists to study the link between such references and increased drug usage among young adult and teens. Can musicians with drug references in their songs influence children to use drugs? Over the decades, the findings have yielded a mixed result that’s not quite definitive. Many factors exist that complicate the study.
  • Complicating Factors Regarding Addiction: Not all youths react to the same song with drug references the same way. A song that describes drug use in an emotionally blank, depressive, and neutral fashion may trigger revulsion on one listener and revulsion on another listener. Sporadic calls for censorship of music in different countries over the past few decades have also led to mixed results, usually in the form of it having minimal impact when it comes to the rate of drug usage among youngsters.
  • Depictions of Drug Use in Music: Quite a number of artists have attracted public images linked with positive to neutral depictions of drug use in their releases. There are other artists who’ve instead made works with negative depictions of drug use that warn individuals regarding the slippery slope of addiction as though it’s a Public Service Announcement in music form. The ones who are usually condemned aren’t the users but the suppliers and dealers though. These drug issues can cut across the demographic lines of musical genre, nationality, gender, race, and age.
  • References to Drug Usage: While there are concerned parents and whatnot who claim getting into music culture in and of itself will lead one to becoming addicts, musicians insist that the culture reflects drug addiction rather than induces it. The correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation. The modern record industry commonly contains many references to recreational drug use because it’s the reality of musicians and they tend to sing about things they’re familiar with. It’s particularly ubiquitous in genres such as dance releases, pop rock singles, and so forth.

Musicians and Drugs versus Other Occupations

Girl with guitar in a vintage room

Why do musicians in particular get into drug and drink problems? Why not firefighters or carpenters? How about doctors or lawyers if it’s all about the ones with the highest salary? What’s the difference between other occupations and musicians when it comes to their lifestyle choices in terms of doing drugs and consuming alcohol? What is it about this profession that makes it unique and addiction likelier to happen?

For those experienced in watching rock biopics like VH1’s Behind The Music or rock star autobiographies, they can identify the following reasons why musicians tend to become addicts to the point of being victimized by their success. What turns them into junkies and drunkards exactly?

  1. Environment: Musicians play at bars where drinks and even drugs aplenty are available. What’s more, they play at night and they’re surrounded by people who are themselves high, drunk, or both. Aside from that, if the musician already has family members who are users or live in an area where drugs are rampant, he won’t escape his environmental tendencies by becoming a lounge singer. The singer’s life can be as drug-inducing as life as a homeless person or someone living in the ghettos.
  2. Wealth: Particularly successful musicians, although they’re a fraction of the number of total musicians that are mostly struggling artists, tend to have access to the “good stuff”. Most well-known rock stars have wealth to spare that allows them to partake in expensive coke binges or other hard drugs. Maybe they learn how to take drugs then by access or they bring their previous addictions with them even in wealth. They usually buy drugs in bulk due to the sheer amount of cash they’re making.
  3. Party Atmosphere: Wherever there’s a party then there should be music. Musicians end up hanging out in clubs, bars, hotels, lounges, and stadiums filled with happy drunk or high people that serve as their audience or patrons. Most gigs occur in nightclubs and concert halls that are full of alcohol (especially if there’s an open bar) and drugs on the down low. Most people’s idea of a good time includes drugs, alcohol, and dance. When you’re at a party area, drugs are usually passed around there like candy at a birthday party or during Halloween depending on how rich you are.
  4. Dealer Benefits: There are social benefits you can get by being around musicians. They’re the friends at high places for many a dealer out there, so they can get favors from them by supplying them with drugs to get high with. If you’re a superstar’s supplier, you end up in his inner circle of friends. Drug dealers therefore follow stars around, making their expensive wares available for these fine gentlemen. Billie Holliday, the legendary jazz singer, met his downfall through drug dealers targeting him.
  5. Permissiveness: Because of their unique set of skills, musicians can be difficult for producers to replace. They’re thusly given a blank check to do anything they want. For those who become suddenly rich, they could end up letting their hubris get the better of them. This blank check isn’t just monetary. They’re also given carte blanche to do what they want, which usually meant loads of drugs and prostitutes Jerry Coltrane’s drummer, Elvin Jones, ended up crashing Coltrane’s car in a drug-induced stupor once. He wasn’t fired because according to Coltrane, “I can get another car, but not another Elvin Jones”
  6. Youth: The impetuousness of youth or teenagers will always be a constant from generation to generation. The young are inexperienced with the world, lack maturity, and want to fit in with their clique, so of course if they can get drugs they’ll use them to better belong. Teens are also infamous for their stupid decisions and impulsiveness, which is why it makes sense when young musicians who hit it big or end up struggling will find ways to get drugs to cope with their circumstances. This sense of irresponsibility is only magnified with riches.
  7. Peer Pressure: Among young musicians, being fearless and taking risks are typically admired by peers. You’re already supposed to be cool when you’re a singer or if you play an instrument. However, to keep up appearances, you might be tempted by your clique of choice to end up taking drugs. Some musicians even believe they need drugs in the first place in order to remain cool altogether. If you’re friends with an addict, it’s likely you’ll turn into an addict yourself.
  8. Life on the Road: Musicians don’t only take drugs because they’re partying. They could also take drugs when they’re bored because they have no hobbies and they have nothing better to do. There are few things as boredom-inducing as touring and traveling from concert to concert prior to the performance itself. Drugs can serve as a stress reliever for life on the road because it fills in the void in your life with you spending all your time touring and whatnot. Furthermore, you sometimes need to be a user in order to build bridges or connections with the drug-using promoters and stagehands.
  9. Drugs for Creativity and Performance Enhancement; Sometimes musicians depend on the high to become more creative or work harder. Aside from recreational drugs, there are also performance-enhancing drugs that they can depend on in order to play harder every time. They can be dope fiends or craving for more dopamine. Drugs usually have chemicals within them that tap into the communication system of the brain in order to disrupt the way the nerve cells go about processing, receiving, and sending info. The brain then bathes in pleasant dopamine.
  10. More Dopamine for Musicians: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter found in the regions of the brain that control feelings of pleasure, movement, motivation, and emotion. It activates when you achieve something through hard work in order to reward you with feelings of accomplishment and happiness when you eat or spend time with loves ones, among other things. When the dopamine reward system is overstimulated, this results in alterations in your behavior and brain chemistry that could spell disaster for you in the long run. This can lead to addiction, with you craving that feeling of euphoria with the simple act of taking drugs.
  11. Genetic Predisposition: There are experts who assume that musicians who end up using drugs are genetically predisposed to them. After using, they’re hooked and the wiring of their body changes, making it difficult or impossible to recover and become sober. However, this explanation isn’t sufficient because too many musicians end up becoming addicts when this usually won’t happen in any other profession. So many more musicians end up addicts compared to the general population, although that’s not to say that predisposition doesn’t play a part regardless.



The answer to the article’s premise is that it’s not as much the case nowadays despite the existence of songs that promote drug culture and usage in the pop charts even to this day. However, it was much worse back in the day. To be a rock star, it’s almost expected that you take in loads of drugs. That’s also the case with jazz musicians, who were the superstar musicians of their own era, when it comes to alcohol consumption, especially during the Prohibition Era that made alcohol cool and forbidden because it was banned altogether. Fortune and fame can beget drug access, even to the point that some rich stars even blatantly joke about it. However, it’s usually the poor musicians who get hooked early on.

Lanna Rehab and Addiction Treatment for Musicians

Thailand’s Lanna Medical Rehabilitation and Wellness Center serves as your best bet when it comes to getting a wellness vacation for struggling or successful musicians who want to kick their bad habits. Whether they want to stop drinking alcohol or taking hard drugs, this rehab center in Thailand will have them covered. They’ll get 24/7 inpatient care in a 5-star resort setting that combines hotel and hospital accommodations to take care of all your rehabilitation needs for substance abuse recovery.

It essentially makes your recovery more relaxing and smoother. What are you waiting for? Call Lanna Rehab now and get checked in ASAP. Their lines are available 24/7.

Martin Peters

Martin Peters has a BA (Hons) Dip HE Dip RN CSAT III and is the Group Program Director Lanna Healthcare. He is a Registered Nurse and Certified Substance Abuse Therapist working in the mental health field since 1994; Martin has had a wide range of experience in management and supervisory roles within established healthcare systems, and has provided consultancy services to a number of private and public sector organizations in the UK and Asia in terms of management, policy writing, accreditation and recruitment. Martin’s addictions experience has been in developing inpatient services in Thailand since 2009, both clinical and operational. He has been instrumental in expanding and developing a non 12 step inpatient treatment centre and opening a further inpatient centre with a 12 step approach, implementing KIPU Electronic Records, strengthening hospital partnerships, introducing a Scholarship for students under the Masters in Addiction Studies Program at The ASEAN Institute for Health Development and working with an international accreditation body. Martin has also been a speaker at several international conferences on addiction, including ASEAN conferences and has also guest lectured at Mahidol University (Thailand), University of Sarghoda (Pakistan) Institute of Medical Sciences (Pakistan) and has been a representative on the CARF Standards Advisory Committee for 2016.In 2015. Martin became a Co-Founder of Lanna Healthcare, launching Lanna Rehab in March 2016 and opening Jintra in January 2018. In June of 2018, Martin was involved in the merger of Lanna and DARA, becoming Thailand's biggest private licensed operator. Martin is currently a Joint and Asia Health Co Ltd Owner Operator of Lanna Healthcare Co Ltd, which under its umbrella manages Lanna Rehab in Chiang Mai, Jintra Rehab in Chiang Mai and DARA Rehab in Koh Chang - all Thailand MoPH Licensed Addiction Facilities providing world-class treatment in Thailand.

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