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Mental Health and Drug Addiction in the Music Industry

Mental Health and Drug Addiction in the Music Industry Resurgence Behavioral Health

Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Music Industry

Mental health and drug addiction in the music industry aren’t anything new. Each generation of musicians has seen its share of tragic stories linked to drug or alcohol abuse while battling mental illness, from Nina Simone to Janis Joplin to Kurt Cobain and most recently Mac Miller. Many people who suffer from mental illness also experience substance abuse during their lives.

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Just as many people use alcohol or drugs to get away from life’s stresses or the negative symptoms of mental illness, musicians are no different. The life of a musician can be very stressful and exacerbate the mental illness that was already there. According to Sally-Anne Gross’ book, ‘Can Music Make You Sick? Measuring the Price of Musical Ambition’, she explores through interviews and empirical evidence how the music industry’s unstable working conditions often create the perfect environment to foster mental health struggles in musicians. Long hours, months on the road, financial instability, a lifestyle already riddled with drug and alcohol abuse, and now the negative impact of social media as well, can all contribute to the higher rates of mental illness and drug addiction in the music industry.

When we speak about the music industry, we are not just talking about the well-known and successful musicians, drug and alcohol abuse prevalence is high among all those involved in the music industry. This includes up-and-coming musicians, music technicians, stagehands, and even managers or music label employees. With Los Angeles being a center of the music industry, having adequate mental health and substance abuse treatments in the city is more important than ever.

Top Substances Abused By Musicians

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a report in 2015 detailing the rates of substance use within several industry categories, including arts and entertainment. The arts industry as a whole is plagued by excessive alcohol use and was the 4th highest in all industries. The industry also ranked second highest for illicit drug use and third highest in overall substance use disorder, with 12.9% of the industry reporting a substance use disorder.

Most substances abused by musicians are used for a purpose, whether that may be to come down from an energetic show to be able to sleep, using uppers to be able to perform, using substances that help them forget their issues or emotions, or just a way to party. Some of the most abused substances in the music industry include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin and prescription opiates
  • Cannabis
  • Fentanyl and other pain medications
  • Prescription stimulants, such as amphetamine and Adderall

Why Musicians Turn To Drugs and Alcohol

The biggest reason why musicians abuse drugs and alcohol is due to the environment they are often in and the impact of the lifestyle on their stress levels and mental health. Some of the key factors to why musicians turn to drugs and alcohol more than the general population is:

The Environment: Musicians tend to be surrounded by drugs and alcohol. They usually play at night and for up-and-coming musicians, they often play at bars or clubs, which surround them by the drunk and high. For all levels of musicians, they are also constantly involved in a party lifestyle, which all promotes a culture of drug and alcohol use, making it easy to give in to temptation.

Financial Instability/Album Sales: Musicians who are starting out are not paid very well and do not have a stable work schedule. This can lead to a lot of anxiety and depression and most will end up self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. For well-established musicians, the pressures from their label company and creating a successful album can have the same effect.

Negative Feedback and Bullying on Social Media: All musicians, no matter where they are in their career, can experience negative comments on their music, their looks, and much more on social media. Constantly being subjected to these comments, even when at home, can have a detrimental effect on their mental health, leading again to substance abuse.

Lack of Adequate Sleep: Lack of sleep and constantly working without much rest, especially on tour, can also have negative effects on mental health and make already existing disorders worse. This can go for the people working behind the scenes as well, such as stagehands. While on tour, they may be sleeping in uncomfortable quarters along with many people which can make proper sleep a challenge. Also, working only during the night can cause changes in their circadian rhythm.

Negative Effects of Performing On Stage: Performing on stage every night can throw a musician’s bodily systems off. The rush and excitement of the stage will cause the body to be in a ramped-up sympathetic activation mode, almost equivalent to a panic state. With the body constantly stressed like this, it can throw off biochemicals and hormones that help stabilize mood and mental health.

Wealth, Fame, and Image: Popular and well-known musicians tend to be financially wealthy which can sustain their bad habits. Drug and alcohol abuse is expensive, but they can afford it, so they have one less obstacle to deter them from continued use. They may also be offered drugs and alcohol just because they are famous, which makes it hard to abstain.

Relationships: Tough working schedules can put a strain on relationships with significant others, friends, and family. Many find a lot of jealousy from their romantic partners because of the environment they are in on a regular basis, which can put a lot of mental strain and stress on them.

Loneliness: Being away from loved ones and a lack of meaningful relationships while on the job, can cause a lot of loneliness among musicians as well. Many will turn to drugs or alcohol in order to offset the negative feelings associated with loneliness.

Mental Health and Addiction Help for Musicians

Substance abuse and mental health issues are inherently interwoven in the music industry, especially with the high rates of mental illness among musicians. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 21% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2020. For those musicians who already were predisposed to a mental health disorder, the industry and lifestyle can make those symptoms much worse.

There is also the argument that substance abuse can lead to mental illness. The music industry is surrounded by heavy alcohol and drug use, which can lead a person to start abusing and eventually develop a substance abuse disorder. Prolonged alcohol and drug abuse can cause physical changes to the brain and decrease the production of biochemicals essential to mood regulation.

Drug and alcohol addiction is a mental health disorder on its own and needs professional care for successful long-term recovery. For musicians with drug and alcohol use disorder, rehabilitation can help save their lives from the negative aspects of their environment. Substance abuse and mental health disorders are not curable but can be well managed with proper treatment.

When looking for substance abuse and mental health help in Los Angeles, you should find a rehabilitation center with dual diagnosis treatment. With dual diagnosis treatment, your treatments will be focused on not only treating your substance abuse, but also your mental health disorder, whether it caused your substance use disorder, or the addiction caused the mental health disorder. Programs that treat co-occurring disorders are the best chance at long-term recovery which teaches better coping skills that may otherwise trigger a relapse.

Treatment programs come in a variety of options depending on what fits your needs. Most likely your program will start with a proper detox to help rid your body of the substance comfortably and safely. You then have the option of entering an inpatient or outpatient rehab program which will help work out the issues surrounding your addiction and give you a variety of tools to continue your sobriety outside of treatment.

Resurgence Alcohol and Drug Rehab in Los Angeles

At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we offer full-service residential and outpatient programs to fit your needs. Our full continuum of care allows us to customize a treatment plan that will give you your best chance for long-term recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. Our treatments can include medically assisted detox, dual diagnosis treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, 12-step programs, and non-12 step programs like SMART recovery.  We also offer treatment for mental health disorders such as anxiety disorder, mood disorders, schizophrenia, poor impulse control, and many others even if you do not have a substance use disorder.

If you are a musician in Los Angeles who is experiencing substance use and/or mental health disorders, please give us a call today. One of our addiction and mental health specialists will be happy to answer your questions or get you started with treatment.

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