What Drives Musicians to Addiction

When we think of the music industry, many people think of the phrase, “drugs, sex, and rock and roll.” This is indicative of the industry stereotype and of a much larger problem within the entertainment industry as a whole.

We’ve heard a number of glorified horror stories concerning people overdosing or getting arrested for drugs at the height of fame. The world has lost a huge amount of talent to drugs and alcohol, and many wonder why someone who has it all would risk so much.

History is wrought with famous artists who’ve lost their lives too soon to overdose or a drug related accident or health problem. We’re reminded of incredibly talented people like Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, and Kurt Cobain who struggled and eventually lost their battles with addiction.

This has led many professionals to consider the predisposition of musicians and people who thrive on creativity. What they’ve discovered is that many artists give into drugs and alcohol use because of the expectations and myths surrounding the profession.

There seems to be a shared belief that artists experience heightened levels of creativity when they use drugs. This perpetuates a dangerous habit and creates an attitude of acceptance for substance abuse.

Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Drug use can actually stunt creative and intellectual growth. Eventually musicians are unable to balance their addiction and their career. This leads to very public displays of intoxication and an inability to perform.

Treatment for those living in the public eye can be difficult and can require more attention to building a support network and aftercare. This is due to their professional inability to cut ties with those who might contribute to a relapse. Understanding the relationship between the music industry and substance abuse is the first step towards preventing a problem that’s been around for decades.

Industry Stereotypes

People from all over the world grow up with stories of their favorite musicians doing wild and impulsive things; these stories often include the use of drugs and alcohol in large amounts. Instead of ridiculing these types of stories, many people elevate them to the status of legendary.

This creates the stereotype of an out-of-control rock star who lives a life of nonstop parties and makes millions doing it. When some people enter the music industry, they find that they are expected to look, act, and behave in a certain way.

This can minimalize substance abuse and even encourage it in certain circles. From an insider perspective, this isn’t always the case. Unfortunately, the way that the public views the music industry creates a stereotype that’s difficult to escape.


Many famous musicians have told stories about attending parties where drugs were being offered like hors d’oeuvres. They also describe instances when managers and dishonest publicists have pushed drugs and alcohol on them in an effort to control their behavior.

Not only are they working in an industry that idealizes parties, they often have the cash flow to facilitate a growing addiction. Drug dealers realize this and will make themselves exclusively available to certain professionals in the music industry.

It becomes much harder to resist using drugs and alcohol when they’re constantly being made available. Some people in positions of fame describe doctors who readily prescribe them a variety of different prescription medications.

This has actually led to the investigation of some doctors who contributed to the overdose deaths of several public figures. Confidentiality agreements can make it difficult for personal physicians to share information about the star’s addiction—this can delay and offset much-needed treatment.

A Stressful Environment

Working front and center in the public eye puts a great deal of added pressure on musicians and entertainers. They are expected to live up to a certain standard of performance regardless of how they feel at the time. Rigorous schedules, combined with high stress working environments, can make drugs and alcohol seem like a viable option.

Musicians and alcoholism seem to go hand-in-hand under certain circumstances. Alcohol is readily available, legal, and widely socially acceptable. It’s also seen as a way for people to celebrate or to deal with their problems. Some musicians are actually photographed on stage holding bottles of alcohol during performances.

This is a testimony to the attitude of the fans and professionals working in the music industry. Anyone who is constantly under that level of pressure in an environment where drugs and alcohol are accepted run the risk of substance abuse.

Very few people truly understand how to cope with the pressures of fame. Without the right kind of support system, it’s very easy to look for other ways to deal with the stress. Many musicians feel pushed to live up to unrealistic expectations at all costs.

An Inability to Break Free

Some musicians are in and out of rehab for decades. They may face health problems or a public crisis that forces them to seek help. Many are successful at achieving sobriety, but they are unable to sustain it when they go back to work.

Most treatment professionals recommend changing routines and social interactions that put you in the path of drugs and alcohol. Anything that contributed to your addiction before treatment should be avoided once treatment has been completed. Some things might be unavoidable, but the majority of addicted people are able to cut those parts of their lives out.

Musicians who attempt to go back to performing after rehab may have to consistently deal with situations and people that contributed to their use of drugs and alcohol. They also face the pressure that comes with entertaining huge numbers of people.

All these factors combine to create the perfect recipe for relapse. This is an unfortunate situation that sometimes leads musicians to retire from the industry in order to focus on their health.

The vast majority of musicians don’t use drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, stereotypes and industry expectations make it difficult for some to avoid addiction.

People from all walks of life face very different challenges in their fight for sobriety. Regardless of where a person comes from or why they develop an addiction, they deserve access to treatment and a life free of drugs and alcohol.

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