Drug-taking among musicians is not a recent phenomenon. In the 50s and the ’60s when rock and POP music were in vogue, musicians like Elvis Pressley, regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century, died of drug overdose; Jim Morrison; believed to have died from years of drug abuse; Kurt Cobain was prone to alcoholism; suffered from depression and regularly used drugs and inhalants; Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on 23, July 2011. These are known victims of drug abuse – the roll call of musicians who lost their lives to substance abuse continues to be an ongoing malaise across the globe.
Listening to top songs of various generations of music from the ’60s to date indicates that drug references are recurrent in all genres of music; from Reggae, Afro Beat, Country Music, Afrobeat, Rock ‘n’ Roll to Rap. Musicians like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh to Naira Marley glorified and advocated for the legalization of marijuana in their songs.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Orlando Owoh and Majek Fashek are icons in Nigeria’s Music scene who indulge in marijuana, also known as weeds in local parlance. They argued that weed is not drugs but herbs in their songs.
Grammy-winning Nigerian musician, Damini Ogulu, aka Burna Boy, was quoted to have recently turned down a $5 million offer to perform in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, UAE, because he wouldn’t be allowed to smoke weed while in Dubai. Though some commentators have argued that it was a promotional stunt, nobody knows.
Reasons for Drug Intake
It is now a matter of must that if a singer must be known and reckoned with within the musical space, he has to smoke marijuana or any other performer enhancement drug else, his star might not shine as he desires.
Unfortunately, since it is common knowledge that drugs are extremely dangerous and addiction is a big problem, one wonders why artists promote something harmful to them in their music.
Interestingly, analysts opined that many reasons could be responsible for musicians’ cravings for drugs. For instance, it is believed that all musicians aspire to be famous, wealthy, and connected with the rich and famous. This usually makes many of them fall into a class often seen as fertile ground for drug dealers; keeping their pockets swelled and connection to the star helps with entrance to their social circle.
Also, other musicians use drugs because of their availability in their circle of friends and thus get pressured into doing what everyone is doing, which helps create the needed excitement.
It is also obvious that many musicians are young. They may not have the experience or the wisdom to exercise their best judgment. Because of their naivety, they use Beta-blockers, a form of chemical which aids performance by blocking stage fright. The managers and friends of the musician goad him on, saying that he is only recognized when he can keep the show on the road even when they know that the performance-enhancing drug will eventually take a toll on him.
Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, known professionally as MohBad, was a Nigerian songwriter and singer who got signed on by Naira Marley’s record label. It was alleged that he wanted to pull out of the group when he realized what operated did not augur well with him. However, he had to force his way out. He died in a controversial yet to be unravelled by the police.
Music, dance, alcohol and drugs often go together, so at some concert halls and nightclubs, drinks laced with drugs are passed freely to unsuspecting guests. Before they realize what is happening, they are in the drug world. Many musicians earn their living by performing in clubs, theatres, etc. These establishments and the patrons who frequent them present a perfect storm for indulging in drug use.
Furthermore, drug dealers prey upon musicians for several reasons. They have the means to purchase products, as well as rich friends and connections to boost their trade.
Also, musicians tend to live like nomads, travelling much of the time for gigs. This way of life promotes instability and opportunities to use substances. The thinking that they must be in top form all the time being thorough opens the door to using substances. Once they start, stopping becomes difficult.
Musicians Who Became Victims Of Drugs
Many musicians have become victims of drug abuse over the years. They include Jimi Hendrix a guitarist, songwriter and singer who died from asphyxia due to an alcohol and barbiturate overdose. Also, funk and pop music legend Prince died after taking a counterfeit painkiller that was laced with fentanyl in 2016.
The world cannot forget the death of Witney Houston who had a high intake of cocaine, marijuana, Xanax, Benadryl and other medications in her system at the time of her death in 2012. The death of Rick James also comes to mind. A toxicology report showed that he had nine drugs in his system at death in 2004.
The legendary Micheal Jackson died in 2009 of acute propofol intoxication and other pain depressants. Likewise, Majek Fashek ventured into hard drugs which led to addiction and his subsequent death.
Drug use and music are linked, each depending on the other in a demand-and-supply relationship. These links are not breaking down anytime soon. Sadly, the only person who might continue to experience any sort of breakdown is the musician.
Recently the Lagos State Police Command, represented by SP Benjamin Hundeyin, said that the Nigerian music industry promotes drug use and abuse. He made this known at the recent Lagos Chapter Press Week Lecture /Symposium, organized by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
He alleged that a lot of superstars are involved in drug abuse. According to him, when musicians have health challenges, most times they would not want to go to the hospital but rather invite a nurse to treat them at home because “Going to the hospital will expose that they are into drugs and they don’t want people to know.,” he said.
Unlike a star athlete, whose performance will suffer when he fails a drug test and likely gets cut from the team; a musician can continue drug and alcohol abuse for years and still perform in some capacity. Musicians need a disciplinary mechanism to discourage professionals from drugs and provide incentives to make them stay clean.
Hemp smoking has become a common behaviour among youths, even more prevalent among Nigerian singers, particularly in Afrobeat, reggae, and fuji genres of music. To singers, marijuana smoking looks like a condition to becoming popular and being able to raise their heads in their brand of music.
However, unknown to these youths and singers, a great danger lies ahead if they don’t change over a new leaf, as experts have warned variously that drug is injurious to both mental and physical health. According to Paul Frush in his writing, Marijuana has mind-altering compounds that affect both the brain and body. The main psychoactive ingredient, THC, stimulates the part of your brain that responds to pleasure like food and sex, said Frush.
Smoking marijuana and engaging in drugs can lead to depression or make symptoms of any mental disorder you already have worse. It can cloud senses and judgement, it heightens the senses, where the colour might seem brighter and sounds seem lower.
It can hurt motor skills and one may risk heart attack as it goes up if the addict already has heart attack disease. It can also lead to coughing, wheezing, phlegm and a higher risk of respiratory infections.
Drugs make it harder to focus, learn and remember things. It can inflame and irritate your lungs. As a regular user, one will have breathing problems.
Considering all the aforementioned consequences, parents, guardians and the government should take every possible step to stem the tide of drug abuse among musicians and youth in general to protect their future and be useful for themselves and the country.
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