Music and addiction


Two weeks ago I went to the ILMC conference in London and visited a workshop about mental health of artists. The topis was addiction in the music business, with musicians and with everyone else working int he music industry. The session started with the introduction of Music Support (later more), followed by a speech of psychotherapist and addiction-specialist Christophe Sauerwein.

According to Sauerwein, about 15% of the population is receptive for addiction. While ‘normal’ people use drugs to escape reality for a short while, addicts need drugs to cope with reality. He explained how addiction works in your brain and why people often are addicted to various substances (or behaviors).

There are five major patterns in combining addictions:
– potentialisation: using alcohol to numb your feelings, you will need cocaine to feel sober again and to boost your ego
– regulation: using cocaine to work better, you will need valium to be able to sleep
– facilitation: you need alcohol to gain courage to live your sex-addiction
– alternate: you switch between your addiction to food and your addiction to sex
– replacement: once you quit cocaine, you start a spending-addiction

These are common patterns with all addicts. In my experience, the first two are most common in the music industry. Being under a lot of pressure, many musicians want to numb your feelings with alcohol. When they have to be sober again for an interview or for a show, they use cocaine. It also works the other way around. Musicians want to overcome their shyness when going on stage (or enhance the high they get from it) and start using cocaine. When they can’t fall asleep, they start to use valium. In the end they need both to regulate their day.

Last night I heard the Dutch psychiatrist Bram Bakker talking about addiction problems of politicians in the TV program “Pauw”. Politicians are in the spotlights too, the patterns of drug abuse are similar to the patterns of musicians.

For musicians in the UK there’s help in Music Support. It’s a registered charity, providing help and support for individuals suffering from alcoholism, addiction, emotional or mental health issues, in any area of the UK music industry. For instant help, they opened a 24/7 helpline (0800 030 6789). What a great initiative! Addiction and music is a very important problem in the music industry. The downside of the myth of ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’ that’s often ignored.

Still, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Success brings a lot of challenges for musicians, challenges that ‘normal’ people are not aware of. A lot of the problems can be prevented with a training in mental skills like purpose, connecting, positivism, engaging, energy and creativity. Check out the training “5 Empowerment Tools“. I’m happy to send you more information.

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