Addiction is a tough opponent to beat. We’ve seen countless people die because of their addiction, and we’ve seen even more people’s lives ruined because of the collateral damage it causes. But sadly, addiction is ingrained in our society because some people simply rely too much on their means of escape.
An addiction isn’t just about drugs. Many addictions center around sex, gambling, alcohol, cigarettes, or even a certain lifestyle. Some are just more obvious addictions than others.
So why are we creating a playlist about addiction? Other than the fact that it’s what we do, it’s also because addiction has plagued so many artists. Some have been lucky and strong enough to live through it until they get their addiction out of their system. But sadly, a lot of them have succumbed to their addiction.
These are just some songs by artists (both who have been addicted or have been affected by another’s addiction) who sing about the many things that go on when addiction has plagued their lives.
K’s Choice – Not an Addict
Not an Addict is very clear on the fact that the addiction is to drugs, but it definitely isn’t glorifying the habit in any way. In fact, it’s about the denial about the effects of the drug, whether injected or inhaled. There are a couple of lines where the singer feels euphoric because of the experience, and she punctuates the feeling about denying the fact that she’s an addict… before admitting that maybe that’s a lie.
Addiction lines: It’s not a habit, it’s cool, I feel alive
If you don’t have it you’re on the other side
I’m not an addict, maybe that’s a lie
The Black Crowes – She Talks to Angels
With addiction, there’s a certain type of denial involved. She Talks to Angels is another song about addiction denial. The girl in the song tries her best not to show any effects of addiction, but the singer knows better. She keeps a little boy’s hair in her pocket (perhaps a child she lost or no longer has custody of), and she also has a cross around her neck as a reminder of her mortality. This is one of those sad songs where we seem to be watching the downward spiral of someone’s life as an addict.
Addiction lyrics: She never mentions addiction
In certain company
Yes, she’s tell you she’s an orphan
After you meet her family
Nirvana – Lithium
Kurt Cobain is proof that talent, mental health issues, and drugs make for a very tragic life. The song Lithium talks mostly about his mental health where he has friends in his head. And as we all know, it’s Kurt Cobain’s long-standing battle with depression and his struggle with addiction that led to his suicide at the age of 28.
Addiction lyrics: I’m so happy, ’cause today I’ve found my friends
They’re in my head
I’m so ugly, that’s okay, ’cause so are you
We’ve broke our mirrors
Sunday morning, is every day for all I care
And I’m not scared
Light my candles, in a daze, ’cause I’ve found God
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bridge
Under the Bridge is one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ most successful songs, and that may be partially due to the deeply emotional lyrics. It’s about a man who has become a drifter, and the only “person” who loves him is the City of Angels or Los Angeles. The line “under the bridge” is a place where the singer is said to have drawn some blood or taken intravenous drugs, got hooked on the drugs, forgot about his loved ones, and threw his life away.
Addiction lyrics: Under the bridge downtown
Is where I drew some blood
Under the bridge downtown
I could not get enough
Under the bridge downtown
Forgot about my love
Under the bridge downtown
I gave my life away
Staind – It’s Been a While
It’s Been a While, according to Staind frontman Aaron Lewis, is all about him looking back at the life he has lived. In it is a reflection on his addiction and how it has affected his life and relationships. He mentions that all his wrong decisions didn’t seem so bad when he was with the person the song is addressed to (perhaps a lover), but it’s been a while since he has felt that way.
Addiction lyrics: And it’s been awhile
Since I can say that I wasn’t addicted
And it’s been awhile
Since I can say I love myself as well
And it’s been awhile
Since I’ve gone and fucked things up just like I always do
And it’s been awhile
But all that shit seems to disappear when I’m with you
Interpol – Rest My Chemistry
While the previous songs on this list are more about regret and denial, Rest My Chemistry is a little more realistic in the way it addresses an addiction. In the song, the narrator reflects on his experiences with cocaine – from agreeing to anything to seeing lines of coke disappear. But for now, at least for tonight, he decides to take a rest from it all.
Addiction lyrics: I haven’t slept for two days
I’ve bathed in nothing but sweat
And I’ve made hallways scenes for things to regret
My friends they come
And the lines they go by
Tonight I’m gonna rest my chemistry
Pink – Sober
Just to be clear, Pink’s public image is quite pristine in that she doesn’t participate in drug use. With that said, she still has a knack for eloquently singing about the downward spiral that comes after the high.
Addiction lyrics: When it’s good, then it’s good, it’s so good till it goes bad
Till you’re trying to find the you that you once had
I have heard myself cry, never again
Broken down in agony just tryna find a friend
Third Eye Blind – Semi-Charmed Life
While upbeat and happy, it’s a song that’s clearly about a crystal meth binge. According to Stephan Jenkins, the upbeat visage of the song reflects how fun and seductive speed is like. Why? According to him, the song is about, “The beautiful people who lead bright and shiny lives that on the inside are all f*cked up.”
Addiction lyrics: Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break
It won’t stop, I won’t come down
I keep stock with the tick-tock rhythm, I bump for the drop
And then I bumped up, I took the hit that I was given
Then I bumped again, then I bumped again
Ed Sheeran – The A Team
The A Team as sweet as it may sound, was actually inspired by a prostitute Ed Sheeran met at a homeless shelter. The Class A Team in the lyrics refers to crack cocaine’s classification as a Class A drug, and the woman he met was part of that team. The lyrics, while an amalgamation of the stories of different people he met at the shelter, talk about what it’s like to struggle with homelessness, helplessness, and a heaping dose of addiction.
Addiction lyrics: Cause we’re just under the upper hand
And go mad for a couple grams
And she don’t want to go outside tonight
And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland
Or sells love to another man
It’s too cold outside
For angels to fly
Tove Lo – High All the Time
As mentioned earlier, addiction isn’t always about drugs. Sometimes it’s about finding that adrenaline rush to escape from something. High All the Time is about trying to find different and sometimes risky ways to get high just to forget someone.
Addiction lyrics: I get home, I got the munchies
Binge on all my Twinkies
Throw up in the tub
Then I go to sleep
And I drank up all my money
Dazed and kinda lonely
Linkin Park – Breaking the Habit
Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a song about their lead singer’s addiction, but he did tear up when he first read the lyrics. Breaking the Habit is a little bit optimistic in that the narrator is clearheaded enough in that one moment to decide that he’ll stop touching the drug he’s addicted to.
Addiction lyrics: I don’t know what’s worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream
But now I have some clarity to show you what I mean
I don’t know how I got this way I’ll never be alright
So I’m breaking the habit tonight
Amy Winehouse – Rehab
Rehab is about Amy Winehouse’s 15-minute stay at a rehab for alcohol abuse. The lyrics talk about the actual events that happened – her dad convincing her to go, the reason for her drinking problem (her relationship), and her desire to always keep the bottle near to cope with the mistakes she keeps making. Amy Winehouse would later die from alcohol poisoning at the age of 28.
Addiction lyrics: The man said, ‘Why do you think you’re here?’
I said, ‘I got no idea
I’m gonna, I’m gonna lose my baby
So I always keep a bottle near.’
He said, “I just think you’re depressed.”
This me “Yeah, baby, and the rest.”
Sia – The Girl You Lost to Cocaine
Now for a song talking about the people affected by people who are addicted. The Girl You Lost to Cocaine is a moral fable about being a friend to someone who relies on you too much. At some point, you have to make them realize that it’s the drugs that are making them feel like they need a crutch, and you can’t be the one to take care of them forever.
Addiction lyrics: Yeah I’ve been your crutch, your smell sight and touch
Yeah I took you home when you’ve drunk too much
But I can’t survive, with you by my side
See I’ll never get laid, while I’m running your life
The Velvet Underground – Heroin
When you first listen to the song you’re greeted with a steady drumbeat that later speeds up to melodic guitars and the narrator simply talking about his experience with heroin. And just like the high an addict gets from shooting up heroin, the song reaches a frantic crescendo of distortions that they keep coming back to.
Addiction lyrics: ‘Cause when the smack begins to flow
And I really don’t care anymore
Ah, when that heroin is in my blood
And that blood is in my head
Then thank God that I’m as good as dead
And thank your God that I’m not aware
And thank God that I just don’t care
And I guess I just don’t know
Oh, and I guess I just don’t know
Silverchair – Straight Lines
Let’s end this list with something optimistic. Straight Lines is like a victory song for Daniel Johns, who was able to fight through anorexia, depression, and arthritis back in the late 90s. In a way, it can also be likened to an addict who decided to take the “straight path” to get sober and clean up his act. This message is further reinforced by the upbeat tune which can give hope to anyone suffering from addiction.
Addiction lyrics: Wake me up lower the fever, walking in a straight line
Set me on fire in the evening, everything will be fine
Wake me up strong in the morning, walking in a straight line
Lately I’m a desperate believer, but walking in a straight line
These songs tell many colorful stories about the lives of people who are addicted. And while the high is something they keep reaching for, it’s the downward spiral that stays with them and affects their lives in the end. It’s thanks to these artists that we get a glimpse of what that kind of lifestyle is like, and hopefully it’s enough of a deterrent to keep listeners off that path.