Over decades, quite a few musicians have publicly struggled with addiction and mental health. Billie Holiday, Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato—and those are just the famous people.
A 2019 study found that 75% of independent musicians have stress or anxiety related to their music creation. In a 2018 study by the Music Industry Research Association, half of musicians reported experiencing symptoms of depression. One study of the autobiographies of rock musicians found that 62% included an addiction story.
Why Are Musicians Disproportionately Affected By Addiction and Mental Health Disorders?
An article by Paul Saintilan, PhD, at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, lists five reasons for the prevalence of substance abuse among musicians. These are: “the pressure to be creative; the pressure generated by performance anxiety; the challenge of managing emotional turbulence…in a hectic and pressured life; cultural and workplace pressures to drink or use drugs; and dealing with identity issues (public vs private self…issues with fame).”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, “a hectic and pressured life” had become the norm for musicians. People aren’t buying albums the way they used to, and record labels get the majority of streaming revenue, meaning musicians have to tour in order to make a living.
Dr. Chayim Newman, a psychologist whose practice focuses on performers and touring artists, says, “The intense, long hours on the road or in the studio create a challenge in maintaining health routines and healthy relationship routines.”
This is true not just for the musicians themselves, but for crew members working behind the scenes. In fact, crew members often face a much greater financial burden than musicians, at least the ones who have made it big.
COVID-19 Has Changed the Music Industry
Now with COVID-19, those in the music industry face a new problem: the halting of their source of income. Without the ability to do live shows, people are worried about both their financial prospects and ability to keep momentum in their career.
The stress and isolation of the pandemic have increased addiction and overdose rates in general, and musicians haven’t been spared. 25-year-old rapper Chynna died of an opioid overdose last April. 38-year-old singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle died of a “probable drug overdose” last August. 30-year-old country singer Cady Groves died of complications from “chronic ethanol abuse” that may have been exacerbated by an eating disorder.
Addiction Does Not Cause Creativity
There’s a certain mythology about musicians, writers, and other creatives who struggle with addiction and mental health disorders. These struggles are often romanticized and depicted as contributing to their creativity. But this is dangerous—and untrue.
One study found that alcohol was detrimental to creativity in 75% of musicians, and this was particularly true as their drinking escalated. In the book The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath, Leslie Jamison writes about believing all of her favorite authors were drunk their entire careers—only to find out that they wrote some of their best work after they got sober.
Recovery from both addiction and mental health disorders gives you back time, energy, motivation, and curiosity to work on creative projects.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. We offer expressive therapy, helping you connect to your creativity in a therapeutic way. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.