Music’s Influence: Increasing Substance Abuse in Youth or Not?

Posted on  May 30, 2018


Almost everywhere you go, there’s music playing or televisions blasting. In clothing stores, supermarkets, at sporting events, on the radio, at the gym, and more. Are you listening to what you’re hearing?

It’s no secret that the music industry sometimes produces explicit content for its listeners. Arguably, it’s a parent’s job to teach his or her child right from wrong, good from bad, healthy  versus dangerous, etc. Are those teachings, however, strong enough to overshadow the messages passed on to not only youth, but anyone who enjoys music that, in its way, promotes dangerous habits?

Many people don’t even consider how the music they listen to affects them. A study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol indicated that there is a strong correlation between rap music and alcohol and drug use. According to Forbes, Americans are spending more time than they ever have listening to music – over 32 hours a week.

Alcohol and drugs are common subjects of many mainstream songs. Shockingly-popular singer Beyoncé’s song “Drunk in Love” has over 460 million views on YouTube. You would be hard-pressed to find a song in today’s music that doesn’t mention drinking, smoking, or taking pills.

We’re talking about all the songs you hear on the radio. Knowing that the positive treatment of illegal substances in music is prevalent and that the world consumes music almost as much as food, how do we tie it to the disturbingly high substance abuse statistics affecting today’s youth? (According to an article written by Ashwood Recovery at Northpoint, over half of all high school seniors have tried drugs or inhalants at least once.) The studies show more risky behaviors from people who listen to certain types of music than others who don’t. Some kids first learn about specific drugs or alcohol from a song they hear on the radio or that their friend is playing. Music has a subconscious effect on our brains, the same way watching TV can influence our thinking and thus, our behaviors. The connection can’t be denied.

Even though the connection is there, however, is the problem getting worse? Maybe not. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid and Vicodin usage has decreased among middle and high school students. Despite many changing marijuana laws, so has the usage of the drug.

For many people, music is uplifting. One minute of a song can change a person’s mood for the better. Perhaps even songs with lyrics promoting substance abuse can make a person feel good without leading them to use or drink.

Is music increasing substance abuse in youth? Sure, the influence is there, but have the numbers gone up? According to recent studies, they haven’t. It isn’t as though the topics of drugs and alcohol have lessened in the music industry either. Perhaps all we can do is hear the music, see the statistics, and watch our kids and patients. Perhaps we should keep an eye – and an ear- on both, and pinpoint the other causes of abuse – genetics, family history, mental illness. After all, we can’t blame celebrities for everything.

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