Drug-fueled parties, overdoses, stories of survival and despair. These songs deal with all that and more.
There are so many songs celebrating the party lifestyle “and we dancing to a song about a face gone numb” (Macklemore – “Drug Dealer” feat. Ariana DeBoo). What about songs that explore recovery from addiction? There are more than you might realize.
How long will it take to dispel the stigma around substance use disorders and other mental illnesses? Songs that talk openly about these issues are helping to bring awareness to the public consciousness. In just the last decade, there have been so many incredible songs written about addiction. Here are just a handful of the best songs about addiction and recovery from the last five years:
1. Shawn Mendes – In My Blood
Shawn Mendes wrote the 2018 song “In My Blood” as a way to open up about his struggles with anxiety. The lyrics ring true for anyone who knows the excruciating pain of trying to cope with mental illness, including addiction. The song is empowering with the lyrics “sometimes I feel like giving up but I just can’t, it isn’t in my blood.” Survivors can relate to the drive to not give up on yourself, even when it’s something you can’t explain, that it just isn’t in your blood to give up.
I’m overwhelmed and insecure, give me something
I could take to ease my mind slowly
Just have a drink and you’ll feel better
Just take her home and you’ll feel better
Keep telling me that it gets better
Does it ever?
2. Mike Posner – I Took a Pill in Ibiza
You might know this 2015 song in its hyped up, remixed version. The SeeB remix of this song was played in clubs non-stop and streamed over a billion times on Spotify, and its music video seen over a billion times on YouTube. The original is actually a stripped-down tune about regretful drug use, excessive partying, depression, and loneliness. The backstory of a song doesn’t dictate how it’s consumed by listeners, but this tune was basically borne from a bad trip and written as a way to process “dark and heavy emotion.”
The song is also poignant for its mention of Avicii, who was open about his own experiences with depression, addiction, and recovery, and who died by suicide last year.
But you don’t wanna be high like me
Never really knowing why like me
You don’t ever wanna step off that roller coaster and be all alone
3. Calvin Harris, Rag’n’Bone Man – Giant
Scottish DJ Calvin Harris collaborated with Rag’n’Bone Man to create the stirring 2019 song “Giant.” Giant starts off with a common thread in addiction, loneliness, and trying to fill that void with something (in this case, pills). The song itself goes on to feel empowering and hopeful. Rag’n’Bone Man sounds like he’s singing about recovery: “You taught me something, yeah, freedom is ours, it was you who taught me living is.”
I understood loneliness
Before I knew what it was
I saw the pills on the table
4. Demi Lovato – Sober
The entirety of Demi Lovato’s single “Sober” is a real-life relapse confession. She wrote this song about her 2018 relapse after six years of sobriety. Part of the message is similar to Macklemore’s “Starting Over” as she sings about letting down her fans and the challenge of being public about sobriety. Loneliness is a central tenet of addiction for many, and this song touches on that with lyrics like “it’s only when I’m lonely…just hold me, I’m lonely.”
Momma, I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore
And daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor
To the ones who never left me
We’ve been down this road before
I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore
5. Ed Sheeran – Save Myself
Ed Sheeran’s 2017 “Save Myself” is about finally learning to put yourself first. Like a person who became addicted to cope with codependency, the song talks about the problems inherent in giving your everything to save another person. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t ever help anyone else.
Life can get you down so I just numb the way it feels
I drown it with a drink and out-of-date prescription pills
And all the ones that love me they just left me on the shelf
So before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself
And before I blame someone else, I’ve got to save myself
And before I love someone else, I’ve got to love myself
6. J. Cole – Once an Addict
Cole’s 2018 album KOD tackles topics like mental health, addictions, trauma, and mental illness stigma in the black community. The song “Once an Addict” explores being an addict who is the child of an addict. Those of us who have experience with a caregiver’s alcoholism can directly relate to the pain of watching someone you love kill themselves slowly; then to numb that pain, becoming addicts themselves.
Something’s got a hold on me
I can’t let it go
Life can bring much pain
There are many ways to deal with this pain (right)
7. Belly – What Does It Mean?
Palestinian-Canadian rapper Belly put together the powerful 2018 album “Immigrant.” The album includes a song titled “What Does It Mean?” This track doesn’t hold back in its honest depiction of addiction at a young age. It holds hope by talking about still being alive after having an overdose at only 16 years old.
On God that’s the moment that they all fear (all fear)
Look, I was only fourteen (fourteen)
X addiction got me feeling like a whole fiend
Sixteen, first time that I OD’d
And I’m still here
8. NF – How Could You Leave Us
Nathan Feuerstein, better known as NF, is a rapper who often pens songs about childhood trauma and mental illness. NF’s 2016 song “How Could You Leave Us” is a heartbreaking song about losing his mother to an addiction to pills. He says in the song that he doesn’t know what it’s like to have that addiction, but he does “know what it’s like to be a witness, it kills.”
I wish you were here mama but every time I picture you
All I feel is pain, I hate the way I remember you
They found you on the floor, I could tell that you felt hollow
Gave everything you had plus your life to them pill bottles
What are some of your faves? Let us know in the comments.