Substance abuse is no stranger to the world of music. Many musicians notoriously use, and just as many songs talk about or even romanticize substance use. But there are plenty of sober musicians out there and there are also plenty of songs that are actually pro-sobriety. Musicians and songs like these are helping to redefine the concept of cool, divorcing it one step at a time from the over-glamorized image of substance use and abuse. If you want to check out some of these tunes for inspiration, here’s a list that will get you started. While some of these songs were written by musicians who have struggled with their substance use, the anti-drug refrain throughout these songs stands on its own.
Warning: Some of these songs contain language that may not be appropriate in the workplace, around children, or other listeners.
1. Minor Threat – Straight Edge
Although 1980s hardcore punk band Minor Threat was in the scene for three years, this list wouldn't be complete without the inclusion of a song that helped to launch the entire straight edge punk movement, a subculture of hardcore punk based off abstaining from alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs. The anti-drug theme is strong in this song with choice words like:
“I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
'Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch”
2. Neil Young – Needle And The Damage Done
This song by Neil Young describes the plight of addicted musicians he knew. Though the lyrics are a bit ambiguous in some ways, it is obviously an anti-heroin piece with lyrics like:
“I watched the needle
take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done.”
3. Pearl Jam – Life Wasted
Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder said he wrote this song about the death of Johnny Ramone and one’s feelings after returning home from a funeral. The song feels like a plea to a friend to stop using from someone who has had experience with addiction.
“I escaped it, a life wasted, I’m never going back again.”
4. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Fight Like A Brave
The RHCP front man Anthony Kiedis openly struggled with addiction before achieving sobriety. His band’s song “Fight Like a Brave” is clearly an anti-drug anthem.
“It's better late than never
To set-a-set it straight
You know the lie is dead
So give yourself a break
Get it through your head
Get if off your chest
Get it out your arm”
5. Weezer - We Are All On Drugs
Despite the title, which may have you thinking otherwise, this song by Weezer is actually an in-your-face piece about addiction—even if it takes a sarcastic tone at times. While the song isn’t exclusively talking about substance use (Weezer’s singer has talked about how the song could also be about any type of addiction, such as gambling or the internet), the fact that the song can carry the anti-drug message is straightforward.
“And you twitch in your seat ‘cause
You wanna hit the street when you're
And you cause such a fuss ‘cause
There's no one you can trust when you're
And the best of your days
Will all vanish into haze when you're
And you wish you could quit ‘cause
You're really sick of it but you're