Is the music industry the prime influence for drug use in young adults?
“So you’re lucky to be alive - but guess who’s dead? Your fans”.
Recently, I came across an Instagram post from Star actress, Jude Demorest, in which she detailed her passion for the abolishment of the mention of drugs in songs. She confidently calls out artists and writers for selling a “drug fuelled dream to children”. The question, is the music industry one of the prime influences for drug use in young adults?
According to Very Well Health, the number one cause of death for Americans between the ages of 20-24 is ‘unintentional injuries’ caused by drug poisoning, more specifically from narcotics and hallucinogens. Some of this population who have been exposed to drugs may have substance abuse disorder but not all, some die as a result of the drugs they have taken being laced or mixed with something lethal.
After learning of this shocking statistic, Demorest calls for writers and artists to stop glamorising drugs; instead, she urges them to ‘be real’ by making their fans aware of the true consequences of taking drugs. Such as the inability to complete daily tasks, such as brushing teeth or washing, or the impact drug abuse has on families. She also rightly points out that people within the music industry can afford the help they need when it comes to addiction and recovery, whereas many of their fans unfortunately cannot.
There are many popular songs which romanticise drug-taking. For example, ‘We Can’t Stop’ by Miley Cyrus, ‘Highest in the Room’ by Travis Scott, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by The Beatles and ‘Under the Bridge’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, just to name a few. Such lyrics in these hit songs include ‘tryna get a line in the bathroom’, ‘dancing with molly’, ‘is where I drew some blood’. However, on the other side of the spectrum, there are few songs that highlight the realities of drug abuse, one being chart-topping ‘The A Team’ by Ed Sheeran. Lyrics from this song highlight the realities of drug abuse ‘white lips, pale face’, ‘burnt lungs’, ‘struggling to pay rent’.
Often, people in the public eye have fans who admire them, that is why some of them are labelled as ‘influencers’ and, by right, people within the music industry are essentially ‘influencers’. Many artists claim they want to their music and ‘empower’ their fans and positively impact people’s lives. So, when writing and singing about drugs, are they tempting their fans to take drugs? Obviously, the people taking drugs must take some responsibility, but how much? Demorest holds the music industry accountable by claiming that the music industry is “complicit”, describing those within as the “advertisers” for drug-taking. She begs for those who have power to not “abuse it” and to stop putting drug abuse into a “cute package” to “sell it”.
Music festivals also fall victim to drug-taking culture and, it is a well known fact in the UK, that they are a common scene for drug-taking. Many festivals have realised that stopping young adults from taking drugs seems to be an unattainable short-term goal, so instead, have implemented drug-testing procedures where you can go to a meeting point to get your drugs tested to make sure people know what they are taking. This seems to be a short-term solution to the tragedy of many young adults losing their lives to laced drugs at festivals.
Is this process effective? Well, we don’t know yet as it is a relatively new regime. However, it seems to be a small step to help prevent drug related deaths at music festivals, but one which does not acknowledge the culture of drug taking within popular music. Nevertheless, it is not a solution to the problem at all. Is it encouraging people to take drugs? Is it presenting the message that drugs are okay and safe? Do festivals just use this as good publicity? Or to even save their backs? Artists have a certain responsibility at festivals to set a standard for their fans. Is being drunk or high whilst performing appropriate?
This narrative of drug taking being ‘cool’ is extremely alarming and it can, unfortunately, lead to life-changing consequences for young people. Young people are impressionable and may not be fully educated about the consequences of taking drugs, so will, unfortunately, have to find out for themselves. For many young people, drug taking will be a form of adopting capital in society, to look ‘cool’, or to fit in. Is the music industry accountable for this pressure? Demorest powerfully ends her speech by writing “so you’re lucky to be alive - but guess who’s dead? Your fans”.
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Words: Holly Phillips