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Home » Resources » Health » Dealing with the Difficult Subject of Addiction

Dealing with the Difficult Subject of Addiction


The following article is condensed from an article provided by MusiCares ( The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences established the MusiCares Foundation to provide emergency assistance to musicians who are in need.

Research indicates that addiction is a problem that affects roughly 10% of the general population. That statistic is often larger within the music community due to unique occupational hazards such as performing in clubs and bars, the overwhelming stress of life on the road, and the ease with which substances are available. The combination of these issues can make substance abuse and addiction problems common with music people.

More often than not, bandmates, friends, family members, or managers see the symptoms before the addicted individual acknowledges a problem. Being aware of the warning signs can be the first step in getting help. It is important to look for trends in attitude, actions, and appearance. Warning signs typically emerge in several areas of a person’s life. The following indicators are associated with alcohol and drug dependence, as well as a variety of physical and mental disorders. The appearance of one of these signs does not necessarily indicate addiction, nor are they meant to be a substitute for a professional assessment, but a combination of signs may signify a problem. These signs are broken down to three different areas of a person’s life: career, physical/behavioral, and family/social.

Career Indicators: missing gigs or showing up late; not knowing parts; fighting with bandmates; hiring and firing of management; band breakups; using drugs and alcohol to get through gigs; financial problems resulting from drug or alcohol use; loss of motivation; and not “feeling” the music anymore.

Physical/Behavioral Problems: deterioration of hygiene or appearance; using drugs and alcohol to cope with pressure, disappointments, or challenges; inability to control the amount of use; mood swings, including anger, sadness, or remorse; “blackouts” or the inability to remember events when drinking or using; passing out; hiding drinking or drug use; keeping track of usage; driving under the influence; increased tolerance to drugs and alcohol; arrests associated with drinking or drug use; switching chemicals in order to control use; weight loss or gain; depression; and morning “shakes” and finding that it helps to have a drink.

Family and Social Problems: denying there is a problem; becoming irritated when family or friends discuss usage; avoiding family and friends and/or disappearing for days; family history of addiction; lies and cover ups; promising to “cut down”; borrowing money and not paying it back; being late or absent from events; and behavior and extreme mood changes.

If you have a friend, loved one, or band member who is suffering from addiction, it is important to understand exactly what you are dealing with. The following are five common myths about drug addition and substance abuse:

1) Overcoming addiction is a simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs if you really want to. Prolonged exposure to drugs alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer will.

2) Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing you can do about it. Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn’t mean you’re a helpless victim. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.

3) Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better. Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process—the earlier, the better. The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait to intervene until the addict has lost it all.

4) You can’t force someone into treatment; they have to want help. Treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to be successful. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. As they sober up and their thinking clears, many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change.

5) Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point trying again; some cases are hopeless. Recovery from drug addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed. Rather, it’s a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the approach. It is important to look for trends in attitude, actions, and appearance. Warning signs typically emerge in several areas of a person’s life.

If you have a bandmate, friend, or loved one suffering from addiction, know that you are not alone. Many people who have been down this road are willing to share their experiences. Visit to hear some real-life experiences from music industry VIPs. Education is part of the solution. There are peers to lean on and professionals to guide you.

Addiction is a systems problem. Everyone who deals with the addiction is affected, so the entire system must be involved in the solution. Likewise, recovery is a process, and there is no quick fix. Addiction did not happen overnight, and in most cases, neither does recovery. Patience, persistence, compassion, and consistency are the ingredients to success.

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