Music, Substance Abuse and Music Therapy

It’s hard to deny a relationship that exists in our society between music and the use of alcohol and/or other drugs. While for some people this relationship isn’t a problem, for others it is. Because of this, this post is going to look at ways that music can be helpful to those seeking recovery from substance abuse.

Why This Relationship Exists

There are different reasons for why this relationship between music and drugs exists. I’m going to look at two. Following these, I’ll share some reasons why music can be helpful for those in recovery from substance abuse.


I think that one reason that this relationship exists nowadays is the environment. Most places offering live music are bars, tasting rooms, and music festivals. If these are the places where you’re making or enjoying music, it makes sense that there are simply more opportunities to use. With that, it becomes part of the cultural norm where it’s hard to imagine how the two wouldn’t go hand-in-hand.

This can obviously make it difficult for someone in recovery. Where and with whom can you go to enjoy music and not be triggered to use? (If this describes your situation, make sure to check out Sober AF Entertainment.)

Enhance the Experience

For some people, the use of drugs within the context of performing or enjoying music helps, or has helped, to enhance the experience. They may claim that the musical experience feels different and takes on a new level of meaning when they’re “high.” And yes, drugs can have an enhancing effect as euphoria is a reason why people may seek out drugs in the first place. However, music in and of itself can be a mind-altering experience; drugs aren’t necessary.


Still, other people use drugs to self-medicate. For musicians who use before or during a show, that may be to help them “loosen up.” Performing without drugs may be hard to imagine because they’ve become so accustomed to being “high” on stage.

Why Music Can Help Those in Recovery From Substance Abuse

Music can help those in recovery from substance abuse

Music can be a powerful tool for helping those in recovery from substance abuse. Creating or listening to music can provide opportunities to express feelings, while it can also help facilitate the examination of thoughts and behaviors. With this, music can bring about flow states along with feelings of transcendence and fun.

Part of the reason why music can do this is because of the ways music interacts with us neurobiologically. The same parts of the brain that are impacted by addiction are also impacted by music. This means that music can create a sense of euphoria and reward within our brains and bodies similar to drugs. As well, music can facilitate neuroplasticity that can help to create new connections and behaviors.

Yet, at the same time, music can also serve as a trigger for wanting to use. However, when this is experienced within the context of a therapeutic relationship, this trigger can be useful. A music therapist can use this musical trigger to help a client in recovery work with the strong feelings that can come up while in a safe place.

So yes, music is pretty unique in how it can help those in recovery. It can help us make sense of how we feel and why we do the things we do. At the same time, it can help us feel things that we may have never felt before. Since those feelings can be pleasant or unpleasant, it’s necessary to appreciate this aspect of music as well. It can bring up things that need to be felt and examined in order to help you on your path in recovery.

Interested in Incorporating Music Therapy As Part of Your Recovery?

A music therapist understands how music impacts the mind, body, and spirit and knows how to create change. Because of this, you may find music therapy to be worth pursuing as part of your sobriety journey. If you’re in recovery and interested about what you’ve read here about music, reach out to see if the music therapy services I provide can help you in your recovery process.

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