Our culture is driven by pop music, and much of a youth’s identity is based on the kind of music he or she listens to. Music can be used to reinforce the value system of addiction, or it can be used in the healing process. In the 1940s, music exploded around the world with a new influence that went on to change the world.

Music in the 1940s mainly was built around the jazz and big band styles. Artists such as Count Basie and Artie Shaw helped to define the musical era.

The second major wave of opiate addiction in America began in the 1930s and 1940s amidst the Harlem jazz scene, and then again within the Beatnik subculture of the 1950s.

count basie

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

Marijuana had been around since the 1920′s, along with various opiates, but booze was the drug of choice not only for teens and college-age people, but also mainstream, working-class suburbanites (i.e., parents!).

“Cocktail hour” gained popularity as a way to socialize.


People also often relied on prescription medications, such as barbiturates (Seconal) – a dangerous class of drugs leading to more accidental overdose than its 1960′s successor, benzodiazepines (Librium, Valium). I don’t recall amphetamines being widely mentioned by “beat” writers/poets, except Kerouac, whose drug of choice was alcohol, but also used amphetamines (under the brand name Benzedrine), eventually killing him (along with cirrhosis), while Ginsberg advocated the use of LSD and marijuana, but I’m sure others used such substances. For good sources, read Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and On the Road.


1964 The Beatles changed everything


Royston Ellis introduced them to the high produced by a Benzedrine inhaler in 1960. The Beatles were introduced to “pep” pills in their Hamburg days to keep them going during the night. Bob Dylan introduced them to Marijuana in 1964, during a visit to New York City. LSD was introduced when Lennon and Harrison’s dentist spiked their after-dinner coffee at a party, in 1965.

The Hippie subculture was a youth movement that consisted of very liberal people caring about Mother Nature. They believed in peace and ‘Free Love’. People felt they were not bound to each other, but instead should love one another freely. The public’s tolerance for a wide range of behaviors evolved to include movements that opposed the Vietnam War and mainstream philosophies.

American Culture

The pattern of drug use shifted. Americans began to indiscriminately use of a variety of mood-altering substances. These drugs included everything from LSD, PCP, and STP to plant-hallucinogens such as mescaline, peyote, psilocybin, and cocaine. . Amphetamines and barbiturates also were fair game. Poly-drug use became the new face of drug abuse well into the 1970s. Rock music and its related lifestyle, along with a supportive media focused on drugs, drug users, and many new believers, generated a bandwagon effect that supported decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. Songs such as ‘The Times Are A Changin’, Rainy Day Woman (marijuana), Mr. Tambourine Man, and I Get High With A little Help From My Friends, alluded to questioning the American concept of standards and the virtues of drug taking.

Many young Americans began conducting their own experiments with ordinary household products such as glue and solvents. Amphetamines and cocaine became very popular. Although these illicit drugs received the most attention, the use of prescription drugs including barbiturates and tranquilizers also escalated after 1960. In 1963, the Supreme Court declared in Robinson v. California that addiction is, “a disease, not a crime”. Decades later, this philosophy continues to be the Supreme Court’s position. The Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966 endorsed the idea of medical treatment and rehabilitation for drug users.


Music takes us to euphoric levels and brings about a conditioned response: neuron associative conditioning (NAC)

What happens when you add Drugs & Alcohol?


Music is an extremely influential form of expression. It combines words and sound to convey a message that often reaches euphoric levels. Drugs and alcohol are meant to produce euphoria as well. Combine the two and the result is a very powerful and lasting imprint on the brain.


Pop music teaches us to use empowerment related to our identity. We use drugs and alcohol in combination in order to enhance that power. We use music to reinforce our sense of belonging to a particular social group. Addicts and alcoholics sometimes claim, ‘music is the only thing that understands me.’

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