Music helps so many people. Maya Angelou, one of our most esteemed writers, once said that music was her refuge, where she’d crawl into the spaces between the notes and curl her back into loneliness.
It’s a neat way of describing the rewarding impact music has on many people. Music’s ability to soothe and calm us when troubled is a subject that has been explored and enjoyed for centuries. Greek physicians, Aristotle, King Philip V, and President Richard M. Nixon — all have employed music or musical instruments to heal or set their troubled minds at ease.
While a music career can be exciting and full of possibilities, it can also pose intense challenges that can lure one to unforeseen pitfalls and burn someone out if not properly handled. How can musicians get the help they need?
How Dire is the Situation on Drug Use among Indie Musicians?
According to several studies in the 21st century, there is a connection between music and its positive effects on specific ailments. There’s overwhelming evidence that music helps lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and ease depression. Music has also been found to slow cognitive decline among people with minor or moderate dementia.
Yet, despite the benefits, many musicians and other professionals at the epicenter of this powerful art suffer from mental illness. The Music Industry Research Association (MIRA) conducted a study in 2018 that showed:
- 50% of musicians struggled with depression, in contrast to 25% of adults in the general population
- Approximately 12% of musicians confessed to having suicidal thoughts, compared to 3% of the general population
The picture gets even grimmer if the 2019 report by Record Union is anything to go by – 73% of indie musicians have struggled with mental illness at some point in their careers.
Music, besides being an intricate part of many people’s lives, is also a career for many others. With all of the prominence, glory, and thrill of music, many musicians still end up suffering from substance abuse disorder. In the past 40 years, there have been almost 300 drug-related celebrity deaths, with the majority being musicians (38.6%) and actors (23.2%).
Why Do So Many Musicians End Up Abusing Drugs?
In most minds, the question is why on earth can a musician who apparently has it all in life, beaten the odds to make their dreams a reality, and does what they always wanted to do in life abuse drugs? Of course, only a handful of musicians make it big. The music industry is plagued by maintaining image, and most musicians forget it takes more than skill to breed success.
According to popular belief, substance abuse is something that you engage in when struggling or down — possibly self-medicating due to dual diagnosis, or it can be the result of excesses being made readily available.
Wealth and Image Maintenance
Most famous musicians can be said to be rich by modern standards. Thus, the richer they get, the more sustainable their drug abuse habits, and the more they get hooked. Substance abuse is an expensive affair, but that’s not always a problem for musicians — the most successful ones are wealthy, after all. Drug dealers always recommend and supply faithfully to musicians. It makes musicians become more exposed and addicted to drugs than other people, and the cycle continues.
Common Life Stressors
The music industry is often portrayed as glamorous, and musicians always seem to be in their element. This couldn’t be further from the truth. All kinds of stressors plague the industry from loneliness, the strain on relationships, lack of access to quality health care, and poor eating and sleeping habits. When you factor in the intense, extended periods on tour or in the studio, it’s no wonder most musicians’ routines are often destabilized. As a result, it becomes harder to maintain relationships, eat healthily, and enjoy quality sleep – a perfect recipe for a breakdown and eventual drug and alcohol abuse.
Recognizing you have a Problem and Seeking Help
For many indie musicians, the first step is always the most challenging — recognizing that you have a problem and need help. It’s normal to feel inadequate and unsure of how to go about the whole process without compromising your career. Overcoming alcohol addiction requires time, motivation, and expert medical help. Committing to abstinence and maintaining the promise will involve making significant changes in your life, including:
- Finding new ways of dealing with life’s stressors
- Being in control of what you do in your free time
- Changing habits and routines
Available Rehab Help
Once you realize you have a problem and need help, do not attempt to quit alcohol or any other drug “cold turkey.” It can be very risky and end fatally. Rehabilitation may be the best way to recover and save their careers and themselves. Available rehabilitation programs include:
Partial hospitalization, also known as day treatment, is for people who need their lives to go on normally even with ongoing treatment. Patients stay at the facility for several hours a day before returning home for the night.
The patient is treated around their work schedule, with the primary objective being relapse prevention.
This involves leaving everything behind for a while — including work, friends, and family, and living at a facility while you recover.
Help from sober living communities
These are a good option if returning home too soon may lead to a relapse. People in recovery stick together in a safe and supportive residential-like facility.
While the treatment of substance abuse can vary, a successful program, whether inpatient or outpatient, must include:
- Detoxification. To get rid of drugs in your system and manage withdrawal.
- Behavioral therapy (counseling). To identify the root cause of substance abuse and adopt healthier coping skills.
- Medication. To better manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent a relapse. It can also treat any underlying mental health disorders such as anxiety, stress, and depression.
- Follow-up with a medical professional. To check on you regularly to better maintain sobriety and avoid relapse.
This guest post is by Patrick Bailey. He hopes it will help musicians with addictions.