Music and Drug Use

One of the main points that was gone over in class was how music overall affects our minds. Well, music tends to encourage social behavior and one of the outcomes of socializing are things like social drinking, smoking, or drug use. With many genres in contemporary music being associated with some sort of drug use, such as rock in the 1960’s and LSD or Rap music in the 1990’s and 2000’s associated with marijuana and other various hard drugs. So, the question is posed, “what is the relationship between music and drug use in humans?”. An article posted on with links to research from Dr. John Markert out of Cumberland University outlines some theories that may prove interesting when looking into this subject.

The first theory, called Reflection Theory, simply states that music and lyrics related to drugs and the “drug culture” surrounding it is just a reflection of the social group that listens to it and their own activities around the consumption of drugs. Which is an interesting point since most musicians base their songs off of personal experiences or some sort of cultural aspect they are observing. So, it is not necessarily that the music itself has influence rather that the drugs and the culture surrounding them have an influence on the music. A clear example of that is psychedelic rock of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s where musicians, in general, would consume hallucinogenic substances before composing, recording, or performing their music; with a prominent example, that comes to mind, being  “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. That song was supposedly written while under the influence of LSD in San Francisco and it’s subject matter being about the surreal land that Alice and Wonderland takes place in. Reflection Theory would then lead us to conclude that all of the music in the 1960’s and early 1970’s was just a result of the “counter culture” and “hippie” movements of post war Britain and America.

The second theory is called Arnoldian Theory. It states that, while the initial music may be the result of a certain culture or movement, the people who consume that music are taught the ways of certain culture and movements, so that social thinking is conveyed through music and influences societies. This theory would then be inclined to suggest that all of those country songs on american radio would cause people to start drinking more beer and buy larger pickup trucks. While that could be true, it is more of a suggestion that adolescents will tend to latch onto certain items of culture when listening to music, so, if a pop song they are listening to says smoking marijuana is a cool thing to do, then they will be more likely to engage in that activity. More likely that younger people will be influenced into certain activities based on what music they listen to whether it be Gangsta Rap or 1920’s show tunes.

However, this is, sort of, an oversimplification since, as the article describes, drug users tend to listen to all sorts of different music and it is a much more complex issue than lyrics or a culture behind a song. Music can put us in moods, good and bad, that lead to us a personalized experience. Individuals choose their own music and its usually what makes them feel good. Another thing is that, possibly, we just love dirty lyrics or strong subject matter considering some of the largest albums sold in recent years being in the genres of Hip-Hop or Rap, and the best selling albums of all time like “Thriller” and “Rumors” having fairly heavy subject matter on some songs and describing things like sex, abuse, and drug use. So, are we influenced by the music itself, is the music influenced by us, or do we just like music that is not all rainbows and sunshine?

— Logan Williams

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