In the last few decades, the correlation between drugs and socioeconomic class has shifted dramatically. Most people used to assume that drug addicts were primarily found in poverty-stricken areas, but now that’s not necessarily the case. In recent years, there’s been more emphasis on partying culture, getting rich, and living like a rock star that has not only shed light on addictions in the higher classes, but also encouraged drug abuse in the middle class as well.
How Exposed Are We Really?
A 2008 study conducted by the University of California found that drug references in rap music increased dramatically from 1979 to 1997.
- Of the 38 most popular rap songs from 1979 to 1984, roughly 11% contained mentions of drugs or alcohol.
- 19% of late 1980s songs included in the study made references to substance abuse in some form.
- By 1993, 69% of lyrics mentioned drug usage.
In a University of Pittsburgh 2008 study of Billboard’s top songs of 2005, substance abuse was referenced in 77% of rap music – the highest percentage of all genres included.
In 2017, Northwestern University analyzed Billboard’s Hot 100 year-end charts from 2007 to 2016, focusing on finding alcohol mentions in popular music.
- About 34% of rap songs on the charts for those years included at least one reference to alcohol – again rap was the highest of all genres studied.
- The top 3 rappers with the most alcohol mentions of that time frame were Flo Rida, Drake, and Lil Wayne – artists who are still prominent today.
Considering how rap has increased in popularity over the last two decades, any casual radio listener will probably hear one or two songs containing references to drugs or alcohol abuse on a given day.
Musicians in particularly very open about their substance abuse habits. They’ll drink on stage, write songs romanticizing their substance of choice, or post pictures of themselves and others with various paraphernalia on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram.
They’re hailed as legends instead of junkies. Why? Because they aren’t being praised in-spite of their addictions, they’re idolized and adored by the media because of their suffering. This paints drug addiction in a misleading light. There’s nothing romantic about poisoning yourself to death or becoming a completely different person as addiction takes over your life.
Media, especially music, portraying this glamorous and romantic view of substance abuse, should be taken with a grain of salt or enjoyed for what it is, not for the message being sent.
Pop Culture Fighting Back?
There are more artists and celebrities starting to shed light on the uglier sides of drug usage, a trend that’s gaining speed in the music industry in particular as musicians overcome addictions they developed during their rise to stardom.
Many people are starting to use the constant exposure to substance abuse as a teaching opportunity. They believe it gives parents a convenient chance to talk to their children about the dangers of substance abuse before children are tempted to “experiment”. Many adults who struggle with addiction today began experimenting in their adolescent or younger years. Since the glamorization of addiction will likely never be out of the media, it’s our responsibility to make sure children are taught the dangers of substance abuse before they make misguided choices.
For older children, teens, and young adults, seeing actors and musicians they know being arrested, admitted to hospitals, rehab treatment centers; or even dying from overdoses can be a traumatic and shocking experience. One that typically makes them less inclined to partake in substance abuse themselves.
It is also important to inform adults who may not know or understand the dangers of substance abuse what they could be getting into. This is especially true of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse. People also need to know the increased danger of abusing substances where mental health disorders are present, since those with mental health disorders are far more likely to become addicts than those without them.
Since the media will always glamorize drug and alcohol abuse to some extent, it’s up to everyday society to reveal the truth about the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” so that we can keep our families, friends, and communities safer.