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Musicians and Addiction

Why do many musicians fall victim to addiction? Of course this question cannot be decisively answered, every case is different. But with addiction running rampant among musicians since the jazz era, there are common themes.

Addiction surfaces throughout all careers. Maybe increased drug use among musicians is just our perception; maybe they just happen to be the ones which are allowed to admit the truth about their struggle. A notorious example is Kurt Cobain.

Cobain had the odds stacked against him, a predisposition to addiction and mental illness, fame over a short period of time and the money that comes with it. Kurt Cobain was unable to navigate his new-found status and didn’t want be the representation of a generation. Falling deeper into heroin addiction and reclusive patterns, Kurt Cobain said goodbye to the world on April 5th1994. His official death is suicide by gun-shot wound.

Creativity requires a certain level of vulnerability. The emotions, the feelings one puts into music can be taxing. Unlike the tangible work of a bricklayer, art is a labor from the unknown.  The soul digging can bring solace to those creating it. What if this solace is not enough to quench the feelings which make the music beautiful in the first place?

In the late spring or summer of 2013, acclaimed rapper Lil Wayne suffered multiple seizures over a two-three month period. Publicists for Lil Wayne say that he is an epileptic that has suffered seizures since he was a child. Those who know Wayne’s history speculate the seizures were caused by sporadic Xanax intake. Lil Wayne’s name has become synonymous with drug use; he is open about his addiction to opiates and cough syrup. As opposed to Kurt Cobain, Lil Wayne loves his fame. The glorification of Lil Wayne’s drug use is not only peddled by the media, but Wayne himself.  The emotional, physical and financial hurt that comes from his use is devastating. It’s unclear whether his fans want to use the way he does, or if his life is a warning to millions.

The drug culture surrounding musicians is palpable. An amateur artist may feel an obligation to use drugs in order to achieve a deeper creativity. In a certain sense, American art has always been valued on pain. Could the musician subconsciously cause himself suffering to further his craft? In the 1960-1970’s more than forty percent of rock n’ roll musicians were illegal drug users. The counter-culture era was in full swing. As more musicians and more American icons died from this disease, it became less acceptable.

Whether or not a musician is genetically pre-disposed to addiction, the musician lifestyle puts drugs within reach. The often unstructured days and constant travel make it easy to use drugs without it interfering everyday life. And since people go out to see musicians for a good time, the musician is surrounded by partying. The next day when most of society goes to work, the performer is off to another city and another party; that is his work.

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Filed under: Addiction · Tags: Addiction, drugs, music, musicians