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Drug And Alcohol Rehab Programs For Musicians

Dr. Gerardo Sison

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison

April 1, 2019

Drug and alcohol rehab programs for musicians are tailored to their unique needs and designed to help them overcome addiction and learn how to avoid a future relapse. A variety of comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment options exist that can help a musician find sobriety and regain a balanced life that better supports their creative endeavors.

Addiction can change a person’s priorities. For a musician, chronic drug or alcohol abuse can take away the passion and fulfillment of music once brought to their life. In addition, addiction can cause serious health and medical problems, overdose, and severe withdrawal.

Enrolling in an individualized treatment program that recognizes the demands and artistry of a musician’s life could help a person build a more fulfilling, drug-free life.

Musicians, Substance Abuse, And Addiction

The connection between substance abuse and music can be complex. Some musicians feel that using drugs or alcohol helps them to generate new ideas or write better music. Others may abuse these substances to quiet their mind so they can immerse themselves more fully in their work.

Further, many musicians drink alcohol to numb the sense of stage fright, or music performance anxiety, they feel before and during performing. The same frequently holds true for drug abuse.

This is a form of self-medication. Over time, these behaviors can become a habit, and eventually, this abuse can set the stage for addiction. Individuals who struggle with other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, will likely see their symptoms made worse by continued drug abuse.

The demanding lifestyle of the musical world can be stressful. For professional or traveling musicians, time spent at home can be few and far between. Practicing, rehearsing, and performing can consume a large amount of time, making it difficult for a person to engage in self-care, meaningful relationships, and stress-reduction practices. Fortunately, the best addiction treatment programs teach a person how to incorporate these aspects into their life.

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Alcohol Abuse And Musicians

Alcohol abuse can be particularly problematic for many musicians due in large part to the atmosphere where many frequently play. Bars and other establishments that serve alcohol are some of the most common venues for live music.

Some even offer free drinks to musicians during and after their set, an option that can make alcohol abuse very tempting and an easy behavior to return to in the future. For a person with an existing alcohol use disorder, these pressures can be great. Even for individuals who perform in a venue without alcohol, alcohol abuse may still be problematic.

A number of musicians frame their performance with alcohol, drinking before a set to calm their nerves and after to decompress. Some even drink while performing. While alcohol in moderation can be part of a responsible life for many people, drinking on a regular basis to relieve stress can push a person closer to dependence and addiction.

An analysis examined substance abuse in musicians. In the research sample of professional or amateur musicians, alcohol was the preferred drug of abuse. Specifically, the analysis found that:

  • 59 percent drank at least weekly.
  • 29.5 percent binge drank once a week or more.
  • 75 percent experienced alcohol-related problems from time to time.
  • 9 percent had alcohol-related problems on a weekly basis.

The best alcohol addiction treatment programs offer a mind-body-spirit approach that encourages healing and hope on all levels.

Drug Abuse And Musicians

The analysis studied other forms of drug abuse, finding that out of the sample of musicians:

  • 50 percent used marijuana at one time or another
  • 24.9 percent used marijuana weekly
  • 42 percent abused an illicit drug (other than marijuana) one to two times a year
  • 10.2 percent abused an illicit drug (other than marijuana) an average of once a week

Researchers found that psychedelic drugs were abused most frequently, with prescription drugs and cocaine following second and third respectively.

Drug abuse begins for many of the same reasons as alcohol abuse. For musicians, this is frequently tied to music performance anxiety. While many musicians take beta blockers to reduce the physical symptoms of panic and stress that accompany stage fright, others may prefer to abuse a variety of highly addictive depressants:

These drugs are frequently misused and abused for the euphoric or pleasurable effects they produce.

While some people desire to feel more relaxed, others crave the surges of energy, excitement, and happiness that accompany stimulant drug abuse. To achieve these effects, a musician may abuse:

  • cocaine (including crack)
  • methamphetamine
  • prescription ADHD medications (Adderall, Ritalin)

While all drugs of abuse have mind-altering properties, the effect is more pronounced with certain drugs. Hallucinogens and dissociative drugs may be abused to alter the way a person experiences reality, the audience, and the music they’re performing or even listening to. These may include:

  • MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) this drug has hallucinogenic and stimulant properties
  • LSD
  • psilocybin (magic mushrooms or shrooms)

Comprehensive drug rehab programs provide treatment for a variety of addictions, including for polydrug abuse (abuse of more than one substance).

Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Addiction

Many musicians feel and experience life deeply, a fact that inspires and informs their creative process. But sadly, a number of musical artists abuse alcohol or drugs to dull these intense emotions. Alcohol and drug abuse can cause a person’s emotional and mental states to become imbalanced even more.

Commonly occurring together, termed a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis, a mental health and substance use disorder can be crippling. Mood and anxiety disorders challenge a large number of musicians, and without compassionate and expert care, these conditions can threaten a person’s musical career and feed the addictive state.

A think tank examined the connection between music and depression. It found that:

  • 71.1 percent of musicians surveyed reported having experienced anxiety and panic attacks.
  • 68.5 percent reported having experienced depression.
  • the number of musicians with depression could be nearly three times more than the general public.

In certain cases, substance abuse may aggravate an existing mental health problem. In other cases, drug abuse may cause a mental illness to develop. In either instance, in order for treatment to be maximally effective, it’s imperative that drug rehab programs address both the mental health and substance use disorders.

Dual diagnosis treatment programs may treat the following mental health problems:

  • anxiety
  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • bipolar disorder (BD)
  • depression
  • eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, bulimia nervosa)
  • personality disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • schizophrenia

In addition to counseling and behavioral therapies, certain medications may be administered to help a person manage the mental and emotional symptoms of their mental illness.

Mindfulness And Stress Management For Musician Addiction Treatment

The constant pressure of many musicians’ lifestyles can make it difficult to pause and be in the moment. Further, these elements often feed stress, one of the biggest triggers of substance abuse and relapse.

Mindfulness and stress management practices can help a musician to more successfully balance the challenges of this lifestyle. Research suggests that these methods may also help a person’s creative process. Mindfulness teaches a person to be present at the moment while maintaining a nonjudgmental approach to the world around them and themselves.

One scientific review examined 27 publications to study the impact and benefit of mindfulness on musicians. It found that:

  • Mindfulness-based intervention programs may be effective for professional and hobby musicians.
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has been shown to help treat social anxiety disorder, leading researchers to believe it may be beneficial in treating music performance anxiety.
  • Mindfulness may encourage mindfulness induction, or help a person better reach a state of mindfulness.

Mindfulness was also shown to have a benefit when used in a music therapy program.

Art And Music Therapy For Musician Addiction Treatment

The compulsive patterns of drug-seeking and using that accompany addiction shift a person’s focus from activities they once enjoyed and found inspiring. For a musician, this negative effect may include a growing detachment from their music.

Art and music therapy can help a person to revisit the creativity, passion, and inspiration that can be so pivotal to composing and playing music. These dynamic programs may help to engage, inspire, and revitalize a person’s creative process, while also encouraging a person to once again make music on their own.

Though music therapy may at first seem elementary for an experienced musician, getting back to the basics may help a person rediscover the roots of their passion. Additionally, these sessions build confidence and help clients connect with others in recovery.

Music and art therapy sessions can also help a person to address and overcome traumatic or overwhelming life circumstances that contribute to addiction. Even if a person hasn’t previously experienced the visual arts, taking part in painting or drawing could stimulate a person’s creative mind in a way that deepens the artistic vision behind their music.

Family Therapy And Support Programs For Musician Addiction Treatment

Life on the road and the late hours that often accompany a musician’s lifestyle can take its toll on a person’s family. Coupled with addiction, this can create a dysfunctional family dynamic. If ignored, this can lead to further instability and conflicts that act as triggers for substance abuse.

Family therapy and support programs help families identify maladaptive behaviors and negative ways of thinking that surround substance abuse. Addiction can trigger a host of emotions in all parties involved, ranging from blame, shame, fear, and resentment to self-loathing. These sessions can help a family come together, overcome past hurts, and create common, family-oriented goals for the future.

Typically, these sessions also educate family members on substance abuse and provide tools that can help them to better support their loved one through their recovery journey. Having an active support network is one of the most important parts of a strong recovery.

Professional Treatment Options For Addiction Treatment

While many musicians perform professionally, a significant number may only play part-time, due to the responsibilities of full-time careers. For these individuals, overcoming addiction is key to building a more solid and successful career path.

Professional addiction treatment provides customized addiction treatment options for executive/corporate or licensed professionals. This targeted care treats addiction and examines the way it’s influenced a person’s career.

These programs teach communication and organizational and leadership skills, so that a person has a better skill set to excel in both their professional and personal lives.

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Addiction Treatment

When contemplating treatment, a common question is whether outpatient or inpatient treatment is better. Every person coming to treatment has a different history, and because of this, treatment should be individualized to meet their unique needs. Certain treatment plans include both outpatient and inpatient care.

Traditional outpatient and intensive outpatient programs may be used to complement inpatient treatment, however, both services may be used alone. As a step-down service, outpatient programs can help a person adjust to sober living after a residential treatment program.

The flexible nature of outpatient treatment and the ability for a person to live off-site make it appealing to many. This may be particularly true for a performing musical artist.

Some musicians who are not able to leave their performing schedule may find outpatient treatment the most fitting to their needs. While it’s true that a person has more freedom with this treatment option, when used as a standalone treatment, outpatient treatment may not be the most effective option.

Leaving treatment at the end of the day provides an opportunity for a person to accidentally or intentionally encounter people, places, or events that trigger thoughts of substance abuse. Many musicians are deeply connected and involved with their local music scene. After treatment, it may be tempting to go to a show or performance and connect with peers. In certain cases, these events or people may expose a person to drugs or alcohol.

For this reason, inpatient drug rehab may be the better option for individuals who have lifestyles or peers who could trigger thoughts of relapse. While it may seem intimidating to leave life and performing temporarily behind, inpatient treatment typically gives a person more time to develop sober living skills. Many inpatient treatment centers offer a medical detox and inpatient treatment program under one roof.

Specialized treatment programs also exist, including gender-specific, holistic, LGBTQIA+ friendly, and medication-assisted treatment programs.

An inpatient addiction treatment program creates a therapeutic community where a musician can explore the many ways addiction has changed their life. Psychotherapy and counseling sessions help a person to rebuild (or discover for the first time) positive thoughts and habits that support abstinence. Individual and group therapy sessions teach coping and relapse-prevention skills that can help a musician navigate the challenges of their life and creative process.

Many treatment facilities are set in beautiful and invigorating locations. The natural setting can energize and renew a musician, providing inspiration for both their music and recovery journey. Once a person leaves treatment, aftercare and alumni support services play a vital role in recovery, from the day a person leaves treatment to the years beyond.

MusicTank - Can Music Make You Sick? Music and Depression

ResearchGate - Mindfulness and Music: A Promising Subject of an Unmapped Field

ResearchGate - Sensation-seeking, performance genres and substance use among musicians

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