Music can evoke strong emotions, and for those who suffer from substance abuse, songs about addiction can give them experience, strength, and hope. If you can relate to how a person feels in a piece, it can almost feel like the artist is talking directly to you.
Songs about alcoholism and recovery from other substances can inspire you to make a change in your own life. Music is therapeutic for many people and can be a source of hope for people who decide to go to rehab. Listening to this type of music is a healthy outlet for their emotions that can crop back up once they stop using.
1. Rehab – Amy Winehouse
“Rehab” is one of the most known songs about addiction written by a woman whose own addiction stole her life at 27. The song paints a picture of a common theme for addiction sufferings in an autobiographical way. She refuses to go to rehab to treat her addiction, possibly from denial that there was a problem with drugs and alcohol in her life. People ask most addicts at one point or another to get help, and sadly they say no like she did.
2. She Talks to Angels – The Black Crowes
The song “She talks to angels” is about a girl addicted, most likely to heroin, because she lives so close to death that she is speaking with angels. Heroin takes the lives of many people each year. She feels shame and remorse over her lifestyle and she is not interested in relationships because her heart belongs to the drug.
3. Wasted – Carrie Underwood
In the second verse of “Wasted,” the man suffers from alcoholism. Finally, he “pours it down the drain,” and you can clearly see a man deciding to stop drinking and take his life back from alcohol addiction. He feels that he has already wasted years of life and desperately doesn’t want to lose anymore.
4. Sober – Pink
This song, “Sober,” written by Pink, portrays the feeling and the immediate gratification from drinking. She wishes that she could feel that good when she is sober. The idea for the song came from her being at a party in her house and not wanting to be there as she was tired of being the girl people were running to just because she was a party girl. So she tried to change how people saw her, and she wanted a sober way of life without all the partying.
5. Deja Vu – Eminem
Eminem has had a few great hits describing his drug and alcohol addiction struggles. However, “Deja Vu” paints an authentic portrait of overdosing and waking up in the hospital. He is in a cycle of substituting one drug for another and explains aspects of the physical addiction in detail. He is sick and tired of being sick and tired and realizes he has a pattern, and he has felt this way many times.
6. One Day at a Time – Joe Walsh
Joe Walsh titles this song with a saying from the recovery group “Alcoholics Anonymous.” “One day at a time” is about his addiction to Vodka and how he finally admitted that he had a problem. He explains how difficult it is for him to continue to live sober. But, like many alcoholics, he found a power greater than himself to help him overcome his alcoholism. However, he knows that the fight is not over and must work hard every day to continue not to drink.
7. Mr. Brownstone – Guns and Roses
“Mr. Brownstore” was written by a couple of band members addicted to heroin. “Mr. Brownstone” is a slang term for the drug. “I used to do a little, but a little wouldn’t do it, So the little got more and more,” is a line that refers to their increased tolerance to heroin. They never set out to become addicted to the substance and express regret at trying it in the first place. They personify heroin as this Mr. Brownstone character. They say that he is not leaving them alone is a way to emphasize how hard it is for them to stop using it.
8. Recovery – James Arthur
James Arthur sings about his recovery from drugs in “Recovery.” He tells how his life has benefited from getting off of drugs. He states that he can write songs again now that he is clean. Arthur compares the battle he faces with addiction to a soldier in a war, proving that it is a tough battle that he has to fight daily.
9. It’s Been Awhile – Staind
“It’s Been Awhile” is about a man telling someone he loves that he has changed. The lead singer of the band, Aaron Lewis, literally says he used to be addicted in the lyrics. Still, it seems like he has overcome the addiction recently. Lewis is now looking back on mistakes and regrets during his time in active substance abuse. Unfortunately, his obsession may have led him to lose the person he is talking to throughout the song.
10. Whiskey Lullaby – Brad Paisley featuring Alison Krauss
“Whiskey Lullaby” is a sad country duet song about a couple who broke up, and their heartbreak leads them both to the grave from alcoholism. The man dies first in the music. The woman finds out that he has died, and she feels guilty for his death. She then spirals down into her addiction to alcohol, and it eventually kills her as well.
11. The Needle and the Damage Done – Neil Young
Neil Young wrote the song “The Needle and the Damage Done,” about heroin addiction and how it can lead to death. Young wrote this song about his bandmate who died from an overdose. He was extremely close to this man, yet there was no way to save him. Young feels guilty for his death. However, he witnessed what this drug could do because it took away his friend and fellow musician’s life.
12. That’s Why I’m Here – Kenny Chesney
“That’s Why I’m Here” is a song describing an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting brilliantly. The man in the lyrics decides to go to a meeting for his alcoholism finally. When he is about to leave, a man stands up and describes his troubles with alcohol addiction. The man then feels like the other guy is telling his own life perfectly and decides to stay and change his life for the better. He mentions the simple things in life that make you stop drinking and tells the woman in the song that he wants her beside him at the next meeting watching him stand up and tell his story.
13. You Don’t know Jack – Luke Bryan
Luke Bryan brilliantly titled the song, “You Don’t Know Jack,” with a pun on Jack Daniels and not knowing what it is like to suffer from alcoholism. The man in the song asks to borrow some money and explains how he lost everything from being addicted to alcohol. When the singer tells him “to get a job,” the man tells him that alcohol has consumed his whole life, and there is more to his story than simply a desire for a drink. You feel how this man has lost everything in life that he loves and that it is out of his control. The alcohol has control over his life entirely.
14. Rx (medicate) – Theory of a Deadman
“Rx” is a song where the user knows he is in a full-blown addiction but doesn’t care. He wants to feel better. He describes the opiate epidemic on the news and those people everywhere are overdosing, but it does not scare him. He still needs to get high. He talks about being bored as his excuse to get high, which many addicts say is why they use. And once you are in a cycle of addiction, your only priority is to get high as soon as you wake up.
15. Semi-charmed life – Third Eye Blind
“Semi-charmed life” is a bittersweet song written by Third Eye Blind about being addicted to speed. There is a rush when they get high, and everything feels amazing, including the sand on the beach. But when they come down, it is such a terrible feeling. So to prevent the lows from happening, they consume more and more to try to escape their “Semi-charmed life.”
16. Dear Sobriety – Pistol Annies
“Dear Sobriety” is about an alcoholic that successfully stopped drinking for two years and relapsed again. The user wants to get sober again more than anything, but the grip that alcohol holds over their life is too strong. So they are begging their sobriety to come back to them.
17. Drug Addiction part 1 & 2 – Colicchie
Colicchie honestly describes his addictions in two parts adding up to sixteen minutes of verse. He explicitly describes the lifestyle, anxiety, and depression that come alongside each drug he was addicted to at the time. He also explains that he is now is in recovery and trying to help save other people who suffer from addiction by telling his own story within these two songs.
18. Shallow Days – Counting Crows
“Shallow Days” is a song covering the depression accompanying a drug addiction. “She pulls her hair back and wonders what she’ll do with all her free time” is a line most addicts can relate to themselves. A significant reason so many addicts are terrified to get sober is that they are worried about what they will spend their time doing. Now that all their time doesn’t revolve around drugs or alcohol.
19. This is Me Trying – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift sings, “They told me all of my cages were mental, so I got wasted like all my potential.” Anyone who has ever had an addiction could relate to that line because they know the feeling of not living up to their potential. Potential can mean different things for different people and in any area of their life. She has put the drink down, though she still has issues. But she no longer has to drink to escape them.
20. Master of Puppets – Metallica
Metallica uses “Master of Puppets” to express the drug’s hold over their lives. The “master” is the drug personified in the song, and the puppets are those who are suffering from addiction. The addict realizes that the drug is killing him. Still, he is physically dependent. Therefore, pain without the drug is almost as excruciating as the pain from using the drug.
21. Breaking The Habit – Linkin Park
“Breaking the Habit” depicts the feelings of self-loathing and shame accompanying substance abuse. There is almost a sense of self-harm or suicidal tendencies in the song. However, the person hides the destructive habit from others and truly wants the pain to stop.
22. If Drinking Don’t Kill Me, Her Memory Will – George Jones
George Jones knew that he was an alcoholic and that it had become so severe, he knew there was a chance that his drinking could kill him. He mentions that he could even start his own still from the blood in his body and that it is no surprise to anyone that he is drunk again. However, when he wrote this song, there was little mention of alcoholism in the music industry, unlike today.
23. Sober – Tom MacDonald & Madchild
“Sober” is a song sung by two people with two different stories of addiction. Both stories describe real-life problems addicts face, such as their teeth rotting completely away and running from the law while carrying large amounts of drugs. Tom MacDonald sings, “Then I got sober, the madness was over, now I am proud of the man I’ve become,” to emphasize his recovery.
24. Save Me – Shinedown
“Save Me” begins with the person having nothing left. “I can hardly remember the look of my own eyes,” he sings. You don’t recognize yourself when you are an addict for a while. Because the life that used to shine through your eyes is no longer there anymore, only darkness. Later, he asks for someone to save him because he needs help to overcome this addiction. After all, he is not able to do it on his own.
25. Swimming Pools – Kendrick Lamar
Swimming Pools begins regarding Kendrick Lamar’s childhood and growing up around adults drinking alcohol often made him fearful of becoming an alcoholic. He then explains that peer pressure was another factor in his drinking problems. Finally, the song points to misconceptions about alcohol and how it is far more dangerous than people realize.
26. Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Anthony Kiedis, wrote “Under the Bridge” about his struggles with addiction. He reflects on how he felt when he was still addicted and lonely. However, he felt like the city where he was from was home. He wrote a memoir about his addiction and recovery, later titled “Scar Tissue.”
27. That Smell – Lynyrd Skynyrd
When Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote “That Smell,” the band abused drugs and alcohol heavily. The song warns that there are consequences to drinking and using drugs, including death. In addition, the guitarist, Gary Rossington, had recently wrecked a new car into a tree. He was, of course, intoxicated when he ruined the car, and this scene is in the song.
Music can be therapeutic for both the creator and the listener. Songs that cover addiction reflect people’s actual pain and strength, especially when they are fighting to break free. Even if you have never had to suffer from addiction, you can still feel the heartache and suffering that it can cause through listening to the words in the song.
People have been using music as an outlet for their deepest feelings to come to life and tell a story in a few short minutes. Suppose you are the sort of person who enjoys listening to music. In that case, you can feel the artist’s emotions and hear the melodic themes that the artist coveys coming together in union. Similar to reading a book, music can paint a descriptive picture in your mind of the artist’s deep and raw feelings throughout the piece. For example, songs about alcoholism have been around for a while. We bet you can remember your parents playing these songs when you were a kid. At the time, you might not have realized the more profound meaning of these songs, yet they were popular jams on the radio.
There are numerous songs about addiction and alcoholism throughout many different genres. Some were ambiguous in that you could interpret addiction or vices in your way. Still, the song’s intention may not necessarily mean to be about addiction.
If you or someone you know is battling an addiction, even if it is not with drugs or alcohol, check out these songs for inspiration and see that you are not alone in your fight.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.