Music has a universal ability to empower, energize and inspire. It also has the power to influence its audience, often without them realizing it. When it comes to a culture of drinking and drugs, music has been shown to play a role in helping to fuel addiction and normalize a seriously unhealthy way of life. Here, we’ll unpack how music and drugs have become intertwined — and, on the flip side, how music can become an uplifting tool for good.
The Power of Music
Music is full of messages, both overt and subtle, that can desensitize you to its content. The more music you listen to that references drugs in a casual or light-hearted way, the more inclined you may be to view substance abuse as a normal or even healthy thing.
It’s also a natural human response to want to emulate what you see. If you’re surrounded by messaging that says everyone is using drugs — especially the musicians you respect or even idolize — you’re more likely to want to do the same. This fact has been found to be especially true for adolescent listeners who are particularly impressionable.
Drug Portrayals Across Musical Genres
According to research conducted by the Prevention Research Center, references to drugs in rap music lyrics increased six-fold between 1979 and 1997. After 1993, almost 70% of rap songs mentioned drugs. While the glamorization of drugs in rap music may be the most overt, this genre is certainly not the only one in question. Hip-hop music is also known for heavy use of drug references — and it reflects in the drug use of its listeners.
The inherent problem is not the style or sound of the music but the way drugs are presented. With a high percentage of drug references, the majority of songs in some genres paint drugs as casual, cool and even positive — messaging that’s being absorbed by audiences.
How Your Music May Be Impacting Your Addiction
Music can have a powerful effect both emotionally and physically. It can cause shifts in your mood, both positive and negative, and induce physical responses like goosebumps or a desire to dance. If you struggle with addiction, music can serve as a dangerous trigger. With direct references that romanticize usage and glorify inebriation, it can make its listeners want to try — or keep using — substances even if they logically know that doing so is not healthy.
If you’re on the road to recovery and fighting for sobriety, you may not even realize how your music is triggering you. Even if you catch the overt references, the music may remind you of situations or people associated with past drug use, which can subconsciously kick-start cravings.
How to Harness the Positive Power of Music
Music also has incredibly positive qualities that can aid in your recovery. Listening to music has been shown to calm nerves in stressful situations, provide a healthy place to process negative emotions and help people to focus. Whether you’re listening to or creating music, it can serve as a vital creative outlet as you work to recover.
Music can also offer a lifeline of hope and inspiration. Many songs out there speak to the battle of addiction and share encouragement for recovery. As you begin to analyze the music you’re listening to, you might consider replacing songs that fuel your addiction with music that’s designed to help you heal. This music will tell you that you’re not alone. For a few suggestions, check out these five songs about drug addiction and recovery.
Then, contact Gateway Foundation for treatment that works from a caring staff who will be with you for life.