Substance Abuse in the Music Industry


For decades, musicians have had a great affinity for drugs and alcohol. Some preferring one or the other but most opt to use both. In fact, there seems to be a common trend of substance abuse among people in most artistic fields. Well known, young artists have been overdosing and dying of drug related complications since the 60s and well  before that too. From Jimi Hedrix and Janis Joplin to Whitney Houstan and Prince to Mac Miller and Juice Wrld. Musicians die consistently through the years from overdosing or drug related issues, and that’s excluding those who OD but survive. 

Many of the deaths are a loss to a long battle. A long line of rehab, relapse, rehab, relapse over and over again until they finally don’t have a chance to get sober again. Quite a large majority of them usually have tried multiple times to get clean. Some examples being Scott Weiland and Amy Winehouse. The question is raised if addicts are drawn to the music industry or if the music industry creates addicts or maybe even both. An explanation for the excessive drug use that has been brought up by a large number of musicians is that drugs and alcohol actually help them with their creative process and that they find it difficult to create without it. Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson, someone who was actually able to beat their addiction, has said “Those drugs got us going. A lot of people in the early sixties were taking drugs you know, and drugs do help the creative process. You get this creative high and the minus is you’ve got to come down off those awful drugs, back to the world of reality”. Crediting his LSD and Marjuana use for allowing him to create their album Pet Sounds. A lot of artists have expressed similar things, that narcotics help fuel their creativity and makes it easier to create music, some even saying it’s impossible for them to do without drugs.

     When most people think of drug addicts, their mind usually goes to heroin, meth, speed or something of the sort. They would be correct in a lot of cases but actually, a huge amount of addicts, in both the music industry and out, are hooked on prescription drugs. Michael Jackson, Tom Petty, Lil Peep, all dead from prescription pills. And because they are not illegal, it is not quite taken as seriously and is far more common. After all, a fentanyl addiction sounds better than a heroin addiction. 

     Moving on to what is basically a given indulgence for most musicians. Alcohol. All different types of artists drank and died from it. Ranging from Billie Holiday to Bon Scott. A common use for alcohol among musicians is a little different from the creative fuel that drugs have been used for. A lot of musicians actually use alcohol to overcome stage fright or calm nerves. Bands, artists etc. have more often than not stated that they’ve “never played sober”. Many artists such as Eddie Van Halen and even Ozzy Osbourn have combated their terrible stage fright and anxiety with both alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately, a lot of artists start off drinking or using only to calm nerves but that leads to a full blown addiction that often kills them and even if it doesn’t, it leaves long term effects. 

     Drug and alcohol usage is unfortunately not a rarity in everyday society but it is almost completely unavoidable in the music industry. Finding an established musician who hasn’t taken drugs or drank would be like finding a needle in a haystack. There are many theories, and studies about why substance abuse is so common and prevalent in the music and entertainment industry. There is most definitely not one single answer to that question. In fact, there are a ton of factors that definitely affect it. The common theme of substance abuse in the music and entertainment industry has been around for decades and not much has changed, nor does it look like it’s going to.