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25 Songs About Addiction

25 Songs About Addiction

Table of Contents

Introduction

In 2018, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 19.4 percent of Americans aged 12 and older reported that they had used an illegal drug within the past year. Furthermore, SAMHSA stated that 139.8 million Americans reported having used alcohol within the previous month, and 31.9 admitted to having used an illegal drug in the past month.1 Based on these statistics, it is evident that drug abuse and addiction are prevalent in this country. Therefore, it’s not a surprise there are so many songs about addiction. 

Despite their wealth and success, celebrities are not immune to the effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Many of them have experienced brutal battles against addiction, and some have even produced songs about the struggles of addiction. Here are 25 noteworthy songs that discuss the realities of drug and alcohol abuse.

Songs About Addiction

“The A Team” by Ed Sheeran

This song tells the story of a young woman who seems to be struggling with crack cocaine addiction. Ed makes reference to the cocaine use by describing the woman “breathing in snowflakes” and “going mad for a couple grams.” He also sings of her spending long nights with strange men and being a call girl, suggesting she is prostituting herself to support her drug use.

Ed has admitted to being personally tempted by the substance abuse that occurs among people in the music industry. He has described the drug and alcohol use that is prevalent among the ones who party, and he has stated that he took some time away from music to cut back on his own drinking and get healthy again.2

"The More I Drink" by Blake Shelton

This song describes how people may be teased for choosing to remain sober. In “The More I Drink,” Shelton describes a man whose friends tease him because he is drinking Coke at the bar instead of consuming alcohol with everyone else. The man explains that he cannot stop at just one drink, so he chooses not to drink any alcohol.

The song provides evidence of the fact that society may accept alcohol abuse, but that doesn’t always mean it’s healthy. Sometimes staying sober can mean taking a stand.

"Gravity" by A Perfect Circle

In this song, A Perfect Circle describes what it is like to succumb to the effects of drug use. They describe the feeling of “being high and surrendering to the gravity.” They describe it as being in a sort of out-of-control state, which commonly occurs with drug addiction.

This song demonstrates just how important it is to seek help for addiction, as the songwriter states he is “unable to just let this go.” This is representative of the fact that it is difficult to stop using drugs without support. While this song suggests that treatment is essential, people may be missing this message, as 95.4 percent of people who go without needed addiction treatment feel they do not need the treatment.3

"How Could You Leave Us" by NF

NF’s raw, tear-jerking “How Could You Leave Us” details the struggles he and his siblings endured as a result of their mother’s addiction to pills. The artist describes the heartache he experienced when his mother didn’t come to visit as promised. He sings of being left and of not having his mother present for important events in his life.

The song concludes with NF singing about his mother’s death from a pill overdose and demonstrates the harsh realities of addiction. His situation is unfortunately all too common, as there were 70,237 deaths from drug overdose in the United States in 2017.4

"Recovery" by James Arthur

“Recovery” has a special meaning to Arthur, who has admitted to having struggled with addiction in the past. He has stated that at one point, he would smoke 15 joints before going to bed. Since recovering, he says that he can be “present.”5

In this song, Arthur describes the benefits of recovery, explaining that he is now able to “soar” and continue writing songs. He also alludes to taking charge of his recovery, stating, “I designed my recovery.”

"Not an Addict" by K's Choice

In “Not an Addict,” K’s Choice shows the denial that can come with addiction. The song starts with a description of the pain relief that comes from shooting drugs deep into the veins and states that it’s not a habit.

It continues to discuss the dark side of addiction and describes how the person who uses drugs feels “cold and alone” after coming down from the high. The song ends with the singer repeating, “I’m not an addict.” This demonstrates the emotional turmoil and denial that can come with accepting help for an addiction.

"Sober" by Pink

In this hit song, artist Pink describes the benefits of recovery. She suggests that sobriety makes her feel safe, and she questions, “How do I feel this good sober?” Despite a history of using club drugs like ecstasy and methamphetamine, and suffering an overdose in her younger years, Pink remains clean and wildly successful today.6

"Starting Over" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Starting Over” pays tribute to Macklemore’s own struggles with addiction. He has publicly acknowledged his struggles, admitting that he began drinking alcohol around age 13 and had difficulty writing music in high school due to marijuana abuse. He has also admitted to experimenting with OxyContin and swinging between periods of sobriety and relapse.7 Macklemore’s experience isn’t uncommon, as research shows that people treated for substance use disorders have a relapse rate of 40-60 percent.8

In “Starting Over,” Macklemore sings of the struggle of being a celebrity who has achieved sobriety, as he has no privacy and may be seen as a liar if he relapses. He discusses the pain that addiction inflicts upon loved ones, as he describes disappointing his father and causing his girlfriend to cry. He also talks of being an example of getting sober and starting life over again.

"Breaking the Habit" by Linkin Park

In “Breaking the Habit,” Linkin Park sings of “breaking the habit tonight” and “tightly locking the door,” which brings to mind images of being locked in a bedroom, trying to kick a drug habit. Linkin Park’s lead singer, Chester Bennington, has admitted to battling with addiction for most of his adult life. Unfortunately, he lost his battle with depression and substance abuse in 2017 when he died by suicide.9

“Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

In this tune, the artists refer to drug use, singing, “Under the bridge downtown is where I drew some blood.” This is suggestive of injecting drugs and perhaps of being homeless or on the streets from drug abuse.

Unfortunately, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have experienced their challenges with addiction. Original member Hillel Slovak succumbed to a heroin overdose in 1988, and singer Anthony Kiedis has admitted that “Under the Bridge” describes one of his darkest points during his addiction. Kiedis is reported to be clean today.10

"Rehab" by Amy Winehouse

In this ballad, Amy Winehouse demonstrates just how dangerous a negative view of treatment can be. She sings of not wanting to go to rehab, and she states that she doesn’t have time to go, and her father doesn’t think she needs rehab. Unfortunately, Winehouse succumbed to alcohol addiction in 2011, dying from alcohol poisoning.11

"Bad" by U2

U2’s “Bad” seems to be about the evils of heroin addiction, and they express a desire to help those who are struggling as they sing, “If I could through myself set your spirit free, I’d lead your heart away.” U2’s bassist Adam Clayton has publicly reported battling with alcohol addiction, and he has stated that he had to leave it behind to achieve success. He attended rehab with encouragement from others in the music industry.12

"Sober" by Tool

“Sober” actually refers to leaving sobriety behind and asks, “Why can’t we drink forever?” The song also goes on to make statements such as, “I am just a worthless liar,” suggesting that the singer is struggling with shame from addiction. Tool band members have admitted that they used psychedelic drugs in their younger years, and they have suggested that drug use helped them to produce good music.13

"Hate Me" by Blue October

In this tune, Blue October sings of being sober for three months and thanks a significant other for helping with sobriety. The song also highlights how addiction can harm relationships, with the lyrics, “The one thing that always tore us apart is the one thing I won’t touch again.”

The band’s Justin Furstenfeld checked into a treatment center for rehab for prescription pill and alcohol addiction after his pregnant wife told him she would end the marriage if he didn’t stop using drugs and alcohol.14

"One Day at a Time" by Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh clearly references alcohol addiction in this song, singing about someone who is first to arrive at a party and last to leave and who finally admits to having a problem. Walsh now openly supports recovery and raises awareness about addiction. He is sober following a past battle with drug and alcohol abuse, and he has described vodka and cocaine as once having been his “higher powers.”15

"Going Through Changes" by Eminem

Eminem sings of the struggles of “going through changes” and specifically references his struggles with coming off pills in this song. He has admitted to struggling with Vicodin and Valium abuse. He began running to help him get sober.16

"Amazing" by Aerosmith

This song contains lyrics like, “When I lost my grip, and I hit the floor,” which seem to be referring to hitting rock bottom. This is comparable to what someone might experience when struggling with addiction. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler is no stranger to addiction, as he has admitted to getting high starting at age 16 when he began abusing acid, speed, and marijuana.17

"Detox Mansion" by Warren Zevon

In “Detox Mansion,” Warren Zevon talks of going through rehab, going to therapy, and enjoying the quiet life there. In interviews, Warren has spoken of struggling with alcohol addiction and going through detox and rehab.18

"Rehab" by Machine Gun Kelly

In this song, Machine Gun Kelly seems to be in denial about the fact that he and his significant other need to go to rehab. He sings that perhaps their struggles are a result of pills, vodka, or cocaine. In other songs, he has referred to heroin and cocaine use.19

"Cold Turkey" by John Lennon

John Lennon describes the anguish of detoxing from heroin in “Cold Turkey,” as he sings of not sleeping and “rolling in pain.” Lennon has been open about his struggles with heroin addiction, and he admits that it took him several attempts to quit the drug.20

"Relapsing" by Beartooth

In this tune, Beartooth sings of the repeating and seemingly never-ending pattern of detoxing and relapsing. Caleb Shomo, the band’s lead singer, has battled with addiction and mental illness but has come out on top and achieved success.21

"The Hunger" by Florence and the Machine

In “The Hunger,” Florence Welch references the problems of drug use, singing, “I thought that love was in the drugs, but the more I took, the more it took away.” Welch has a history of addiction and got sober at the age of 27.22

“Cocaine" by Jackson Browne

In this song, Jackson Browne talks of cocaine “running around” in his brain and references the fact that cocaine can age a person, as he is 27 but looks as though he could be 45. The song seems to portray his own struggles with addiction.

"Mr. Brownstone" by Guns N' Roses

This tune by Guns N’ Roses references the dangers of building a tolerance to drugs with the lines, “I used to do a little, but a little wouldn’t do, so the little got more and more.” In interviews, band members have told stories of their younger years, when they would party, consume alcohol, and use cocaine, often while hooking up with older women.23

"Master of Puppets" by Metallica

In interviews, Metallica band members have stated that “Master of Puppets” talks about the negative consequences people experience with ongoing drug use. The song contains the line, “Blinded by me, you can’t see a thing,” which seems to suggest that drugs take over people’s lives until the people can see nothing but the drugs.24 Band member James Hetfield has spoken of his struggles with drugs and alcohol, and he once spent seven months in treatment.25

Final Thoughts

These 25 songs that portray both the plight of addiction and the joys of recovery shows just how common drug and alcohol abuse is. They also remind us that even the rich and famous are not immune to addiction. Furthermore, they send the message that recovery is possible, and success will come with sobriety.


Resources

  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018.pdf
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/20/entertainment/ed-sheeran-substance-abuse/index.html
  3. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2716/ShortReport-2716.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html
  5. https://www.nme.com/news/music/james-arthur-x-factor-always-high-1898776
  6. https://thestir.cafemom.com/celebrities/189465/17_hollywood_celebrities_who_were/139375/pink/9
  7. http://www.mtv.com/news/1721490/macklemore-opens-up-about-addiction/
  8. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
  9. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4070404/linkin-park-chester-bennington-drugs-last-interview-before-death/
  10. https://www.radiox.co.uk/artists/red-hot-chili-peppers/what-where-is-under-the-bridge-about-mean/
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/jan/08/amy-winehouse-alcohol-poisoning-inquest
  12. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/read-u2-bassist-adam-claytons-outspoken-speech-about-alcoholism-battle-253141/
  13. http://www.alternativenation.net/tool-reveal-why-they-refuse-to-change-setlist-drugs-influenced-music/
  14. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/us/a-musical-switch-from-self-pity-to-gratitude.html
  15. https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/8478944/joe-walsh-tells-recovery-story-facing-addiction-ncadd-gala
  16. https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/6649647/eminem-drug-addiction-weight-gain-mens-journal
  17. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/steven-tyler-on-cocaine-acid-weed-alcohol-and-other-diversions-254736/
  18. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/the-crackup-and-resurrection-of-warren-zevon-243661/
  19. https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/2019/07/what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-machine-gun-kelly.html
  20. https://www.alternet.org/2019/02/in-1969-the-fifth-beatle-was-heroin-how-john-lennons-addiction-took-its-toll-on-the-band/
  21. https://www.loudersound.com/features/pulling-teeth-inside-the-mind-of-beartooth-s-caleb-shomo
  22. https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/florence-welch-on-addiction-and-sobriety
  23. https://nypost.com/2017/07/11/how-five-young-guns-became-iconic-rock-gods/
  24. https://storyofsong.com/story/master-of-puppets/
  25. https://www.musictimes.com/articles/29232/20150221/metallica-james-hetfield-drug-addiction.htm

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