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Music & Substance Abuse

music and substance abuse

On Friday 26th of January 2018, in Melbourne, Australia. Nine music festival goers were admitted to hospital for suspected overdoses, due to drugs taken whilst partying.

This led me to thinking deeply about an encounter with a young male adult, I met recently. He began to tell me about his first experience of dropping ecstasy, at a well-known dance club in London, England.

“It makes the music sound better. You become one with it. It doesn’t sound the same without it.”

“Recent studies indicate that music can serve as a contextual conditioned stimulus in rats and influence drug-seeking behaviour during abstinence.” APA (American Psychological Association)

I asked, “So although you’ve only dropped one tab. It has already changed the way in which you listen and experience music?”

“Pretty much,” was his response.

“That sounds scary to me. That a chemical can have so much influence over how you enjoy something and without it you no longer can experience music the same.”

He shrugged his shoulders, before kissing my cheek and carrying on with his day. My mind tussling with the power of the pill and the way it had changed the young man’s interaction with the world, after taking it only once.

Recovery is about becoming responsible for yourself. Your behaviour and actions.

Learning how to deal with suppressed emotions, mean this can be a challenging but worthwhile endeavour.

Notice and sort out the effects which drug taking has had on your life. Become aware of how the drugs have changed your brain.

Participate within a psycho-educational program.

Commit to the task of intensive brain re-training.

Develop new neural pathways.

Create a different way of thinking and living. It’s a pivotal part of the recovery process.

Being aware of the stimulus surrounding ourselves, is an incredibly important part of the recovery journey. One of the things which needs to be thought about during this time, is music.

  • Go through your music selection and take notice of the references and words which are made within the song.
  • Get rid of the music which relates to your drug taking.
  • Think about the links you make to the music. Even though it may not directly reference drug taking. What links have you made with the songs or music, which can trigger a desire to use.
  • Think about the kind of music you like. Its purpose and what new music you can introduce to your library, to create different or new associations.
  • Acknowledge all of the above as a sign of personal empowerment.

Becoming present is an important part of this process.

Have you unconsciously created a collection which induces you to use?

Are you still listening to music which pushes you in the direction of drug taking?

It may not be the only think which tips you over the edge but it can be one of the elements which creates the perfect storm, combined with different factors within your lifestyle and environment. It is important to take notice of what is going on before things become overwhelming.

Practice self – care. Monitoring the music you’re listening to and enjoying, is one of the ways in which you can do this.

As a parent, it is worthwhile to monitor the appropriateness of your child’s musical taste with their age. Influence them positively as much as possible and talk with them about the meaning of the song lyrics on the tracks they enjoy. Educate yourself so you can understand the references and then explore in a suitable manner, the meaning for them in the music. This can be achieved lightheartedly and in general conversation.

Music and recreational substance abuse has been intricately linked in the past, present and no doubt will be in the future but you can take control of what listen to on your road to recovery. Choose wisely and choose well.

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