Warning Signs Of Addiction

Research indicates that addiction is a problem that affects roughly 10% of the general population. That statistic is often larger within the music community due to several specific factors. Musicians are often are faced with unique occupational hazards – performing in clubs and bars, the overwhelming stress of life on the road, the ease with which substances are available, as well as other recognized factors such as genetic predisposition and external causes. The combination of these issues can make substance abuse and addiction problems common with music people.  

The key to recognizing this problem is being aware of the behaviors that are frequently associated with substance abuse or addiction. More often than not, band mates, friends, family members or managers see the symptoms before the addicted individual acknowledges a problem. Being aware of the warning signs can be the first step in getting a music person some help.

It is important to look for trends in attitude, actions and appearance. Warning signs typically emerge in several areas of a person’s life. The following indicators or warning signs are associated with alcohol and drug dependence, as well as a variety of physical and mental disorders. The appearance of one of these signs does not necessarily indicate addiction nor are they meant to be a substitute for a professional assessment, but a combination of signs may signify a problem:

Five Myths About Drug Addiction And Substance Abuse:

  • Myth One: Overcoming addiction is a simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs if you really want to. Prolonged exposure to drugs alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will.
  • Myth Two: Addiction is a disease; there's nothing you can do about it. Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn't mean you're a helpless victim. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.
  • Myth Three: Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better. Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process — and the earlier, the better. The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. Don't wait to intervene until the addict has lost it all.
  • Myth Four: You can't force someone into treatment; they have to want help. Treatment doesn't have to be voluntary to be successful. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. As they sober up and their thinking clears, many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change.
  • Myth Five: Treatment didn't work before, so there's no point trying again; some cases are hopeless. Recovery from drug addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. Relapse doesn't mean that treatment has failed or that you're a lost cause. Rather, it's a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach. It is important to look for trends in attitude, actions and appearance. Warning signs typically emerge in several areas of a person's life. The following indicators or warning signs are associated with alcohol and drug dependence, as well as a variety of physical and mental disorders. The appearance of one of these signs does not necessarily indicate addiction nor are they meant to be a substitute for a professional assessment, but a combination of signs may signify a problem.

Career Indicators:

  • Missing gigs, showing up late
  • Being late to the studio, not knowing parts
  • Fighting with bandmates
  • Hiring and firing of management
  • Band breakups
  • Using drugs and alcohol to get through gigs
  • Major financial problems resulting from drug or alcohol use
  • Loss of motivation to play
  • Not “feeling” the music anymore

Physical/Behavioral Problems:

  • Deterioration of hygiene or appearance
  • Using drugs and alcohol in response to pressure, disappointments or challenges
  • Inability to control the amount of use
  • Mood swings, including anger, sadness, remorse
  • "Blackouts" or the inability to remember events when drinking or using
  • Passing out
  • Hiding drinking or drug use
  • Keeping track of usage
  • Driving under the influence
  • Increased tolerance to drugs and alcohol
  • Arrests associated with drinking or drug use
  • Switching chemicals in order to control use
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Depression and wondering if life is worth living
  • Morning "shakes" and finding that it helps to have a little drink

Family and Social Problems:

  • Denying there is a problem
  • Becoming irritated when family or friends try to discuss usage
  • Avoiding family and friends when using
  • Family history of addiction
  • Disappearing for days at a time
  • Lies and cover ups to friends and family
  • Promising everyone to “cut down”
  • Borrowing money and not paying it back
  • Family history of addiction
  • Increased isolation from family and friends
  • Being late or not showing up for special events
  • Behavior and extreme mood changes

Things you should know if you or a loved one suffers from addiction

  • You are not alone. Many of us have been down this road and are willing to share our experience.
  • Education is part of the solution. There are peers to lean on and professionals to guide you.
  • Addiction is a systems problem. Everyone who deals with the addiction is affected, so the entire system must be involved in the solution.
  • Recovery is a process, rather than an event. There is no quick fix. Addiction did not happen overnight and in most cases neither does recovery. Patience, persistence, compassion and consistency are the ingredients to success.