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Popular music is bombarded with song lyrics glamorizing lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous, fancy cars, and wild adventures. Listeners hear songs condoning the use of illicit drugs and consuming large amounts of alcohol. Popular songs like “Mask Off” by Future and “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd are recent examples of popular songs connected to drug use. However, the relationship between drugs and music stretches across genres and decades. For example, recent surveys find country music sustaining higher amounts of lyrics revealing drug use, and songs from the 60s and 70s famously embraced drug culture, promoting trippy journeys and altered states of mind.
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How does music affect the listener, and who is most affected by the influence of music and the curiosity to try drugs? According to studies, adolescent listeners are most likely to abuse drugs after hearing song lyrics relating to chemical dependence. For example, teenagers who listen to music about marijuana are at a greater risk of marijuana use. A recent study of 9th graders confirms this theory, especially the impressionability of younger listeners. However, attempts to connect alcohol use to music were not as conclusive.
Other factors connecting marijuana and music are the songs the listener listens to, with the exposure to the music they hear. For instance, individuals listening to music referencing marijuana in stressful times or low moods may promote the benefits of using the drug and can entice listeners to try it. Teens may also have the false beliefs musicians need drugs to enhance their creative urges or musicians need drugs to help them clear their minds to create. Teens may also falsely believe musicians who use drugs can better cope with conditions like depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and overall stress.
Songs in the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) genre often contain colorful lyrics praising various forms of MDMA such as Ecstasy and Molly, in many cases their euphoric and stress-reducing effects. MDMA is a popular drug at raves, where upbeat, bass-filled instrumentals often surround lyrics emphasizing the highs of MDMA and wild gatherings.Young individuals attending raves may have access to Ecstasy as part of the high-vibe environment accompanying heavy, fast-paced bass drums.
With an open mind to listeners seeking “good vibes” and little consequences and access to MDMA at raves, dependencies and addictions can easily become the norm for some. Dangers of these glamorized drugs are numerous. Aside from the risk of addiction, curious experimenters can get bad batches of MDMA laced with cocaine, bath salts, heroin, or crack.
MDMA is increasingly referenced by rappers and pop musicians as well as EDM artists. Molly, a powdered or crystalized form of MDMA, in particular is popular in modern music—particularly with and Hip-Hop and EDM. Many musicians directly reference Molly experimentation, with some artists penning songs about mixing molly with water, a combination known as molly water.
Studies have revealed the power of drug suggestion in music is linked to an increase in MDMA use. Open-minded, adventurous listeners can easily stumble upon suggestive lyrics fueling their curiosity.
Music festivals are exciting experiences combining community and the thrills of musical expression. Unfortunately, many attendees consider drug and alcohol abuse to be a significant part of the experience. Many individuals at music festivals note drinking alcohol, smoking Marijuana, and using MDMA to increase the experience. A recent survey of music festival attendees found that:
The open environment and availability of drugs at music festivals create a tempting space to use. The carefree attitudes of festival members also encourage impressionable youth to feed their curiosity to experiment with drugs.
Understanding the power of creative expression combined with the suggestion of thrills and excitement by the promises of drug use can greatly inhibit risk of drug use and addiction. What may start off as an innocent experiment can later spiral into dependence, uncomfortable symptoms, reckless and risky behavior, hangovers, and in some cases, addiction.
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