Note: This article is no way meant to be condescending to those who struggle with drug addiction. Instead, it’s meant to educate musicians why musicians use drugs and why they should avoid substance abuse.
Drug addiction often results in years of creativity lost. Even worse, drug overdose has been the cause of death for so many great musicians.
For this reason, musicians need to be aware of the adverse affects of drug use.
The list of musicians who have died from drug overdose (including alcohol poisoning) is extensive:
- Amy Winehouse, singer– Alcohol poisoning
- Charlie Parker, jazz saxophonist– Heroin
- Jimi Hendrix, singer & rock guitarist– Barbiturates
- Michael Jackson, singer– Propofol and the anxiolytic lorazepam
- Dinah Washington, jazz singer– Barbiturates (secobarbital and amobarbital)
- Janis Joplin, singer– Heroin
- David Ruffin, singer with The Temptations– Cocaine
- Kurt Kobain, singer with Nirvana– committed suicide while using heroin
- Whitney Houston, singer– Cocaine
- Tom Petty, singer & guitarist– Prescription drugs/opioids
- Prince, singer & multi-instrumentalist– Fentanyl
This list includes great musicians who were well-known to the public. However, musicians from all genres have also struggled with drug abuse.
For instance, in June 2019 teenage violinist Katya Tsukanova accidentally overdosed on “Calvin Klein”. “Calvin Klein” is a lethal combination of cocaine and ketamine, which reportedly affects the “brain’s chemical system”.
Why Do Musicians Use Drugs?
Whether we want to admit it or not, musicians are vulnerable. The musician’s life often has many challenges. Balancing personal relationships, artistic pursuits, and paying bills is a constant challenge.
No matter how successful a musician may seem, there are a lot of disappointments and failures that remain unknown to the public.
Escaping worry and emotional pain
A lot of young musicians deal with a lot of anxiety. One of the ways they cope with their constant state of worry is with alcohol and drugs. You’ll here guys say “I take “xyz” to make me relax”.
Before you know it, they are using more and more of the drug to cope.
Using substances (even if legal) to deal with emotions is dangerous. This is because instead of working through the anxiety and receiving counseling, emotions are suppressed.
In reality, suppressed emotions will come back and resurface, which often leads people to using more potent drugs/types of alcohol. This includes the dangerous practice of binging.
Using drugs to “fit in”
For some musicians, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is simply part of their personality.
FOMO is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is bad if you cannot so “no” to things that are detrimental to your health and career.
People who want to “fit in” are most vulnerable to bad influences.
For instance, Charlie “Bird” Parker was undoubtedly the most influential saxophonist of the 20th Century. He had such a huge impact on musicians of his era. Every jazz musician wanted to be like him because of his incredible music talent.
Unfortunately, Charlie Parker had an addiction to heroin and morphine. Guess what? A lot of the younger musicians who worked with him also ended up using drugs.
Instead, people who realize that they are easily influenced should be proactive in finding positive influences.
There are incredible musicians who will inspire you to reach new artistic highest and counsel you on dealing with the setbacks which are inevitable.
Musicians use drugs to be “more creative”
The false notion that drug use “enhances” creativity could not be farther from the truth. The most important aspect of your creative life is consistency.
Try thinking of one musician who has remained at the pinnacle of creativity for 4 or 5 decades while consistently using heavy drugs. I bet you’ll struggle…
We’re too fragile.
Sure, maybe you’ll write/produce some music while high, but the downsides of this creative approach is too dangerous to attempt.
In reality, you will end up isolating yourself. No one wants to be around a drug user because of the unpredictable nature of drug users. You will be considered a liability.
All of the people in your network may slowly disappear the deeper you go into substance abuse. This will only complicate your career as a musician and may possibly lead to depression.
Good health, for music’s sake
If you cannot tell, I am passionate about helping other musicians fulfill their creative dreams. Also, I had several cousins die from drug overdose and know first-hand the pain it causes families.
However, all of the material on this blog is of little use if you allow yourself to become a slave to drugs.
Imagine if Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin were still alive. I suspect we would have had some more amazing music from these incredible musicians. Unfortunately, their lives were cut short due to drugs.
So maybe the questions still begs, why do musicians use drugs? Short answer is lack of fulfillment. There is a whole that needs to be filled, somewhere.
If you are struggling with drug addiction (or any other addiction), check out this list of Addiction-Recovery Recommended Links.
Lastly, if you have recovered from drug or alcohol please share your story below in the comments section so others can benefit.