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Touring, drinking and other vices.

This week Adam continues on from last week’s blog about addiction and substance use.

Continuing on from last week’s blog about 'Touring, substance use and the impact on mental health', another interesting study in this area involved a deep dive into a collection of 'Addiction and rehabilitation in autobiographical books by rock artists, 1974-2010'.

The researchers found that 62% of these rockers had experienced personal struggles with addiction of some kind. The research further highlighted how these excessive appetites of rockstars also lead them to become addicted to ‘women, sex and fame’ alongside the traditional drink and drugs. Through the exploration of commercial autobiographies, the study highlighted and confirmed (to an extent) the assumptions about excess within the culture of being a rock star.

Despite the findings it is important to remember that these autobiographical studies do offer some insight into musicians’ lives, yet they remain fixed within the context of a commercial perspective, with a high potential for ulterior commercial motives (sensationalism) through the common use of ghost-writers etc.

Linking this clichéd, sensation seeking rock musicians’ lifestyle to the physical and psychosocial occupational environment, another piece of research used a survey (“That's cool, you’re a musician and you drink”: Exploring entertainers’ accounts of their unique workplace relationship with alcohol) to discover that 45% of UK musicians had experienced problems with alcohol. The study highlighted four main themes that contributed to these experiences of alcohol use: exposure to alcohol; performance related, psychosocial incentives; stressors to engage in drinking; and the free availability of drinks (perks of the job), with the social expectation that performers should drink.

The findings pointed to the professional environment as a key problematic factor, alongside the open availability of alcohol, which further illustrates the unique cultural assumptions and innate relationship between alcohol use and the night-time workplace of musicians. Although these findings offer an insight into musicians’ relationships with alcohol, the study was limited by its focus on a single Scottish venue.

When it comes to popular musicians and venues it is a difficult place to navigate especially where alcohol is involved. I often wonder whether the classical environment does mitigate this to an extent. Only to an extent though! When it comes to a comparison there has been some strong research comparing alcohol use in classical and heavy metal musicians. As expected, heavy metal musicians were found to consume greater amounts and engage in more frequent use of alcohol when compared to classical musicians and the general population.

This excessive drinking was assumed to result from the rebellious culture associated with the heavy metal musical genre. The findings also reported higher rates of marijuana use within the demographic, which may compound mental health struggles and other maladaptive coping mechanisms associated with this popular music genre. So again, the research has shown that popular musicians may struggle more due to the venues they perform in. The difficult question is, how do we manage this? I don’t think a totally sober environment would be the answer and it might be a bit boring. Who knows?

If you are in the music industry and are struggling with substances or other addictive processes check out the free to download Tonic Rider zines, these are filled with with easy to use techniques and exercises. (If you don't work in the music industry see our range of Never Mind The Stigma zines).


Adam Ficek hosts a monthly show 'Tonic Music' on Totally Wired Radio, where he talks to various guests about music and mental health. You can listen again to any of the previous show on the Tonic Music Mixcloud page.


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