How Rap Music may be Fueling the Opioid Epidemic

The power of music is bound by its ability to transcend societal, racial, and cultural boundaries and bridge these gaps using universal messages. As Steve Angello, one of the members of the Swedish House Mafia-a renowned/iconic DJ group, once said: "Music is a powerful language of unity. Music kills depression and slaughters racism..".

Indeed, music is known to have these abilities and I personally, like many, have witnessed this transformation in an age where pop culture dramatically influences our day to day life. However, due to music's universal and equivical nature, it can be used as a tool to influence us both positively and negatively. That said, it could be argued that music is a form of governance that utilizes ideological tools to implement its teachings effectively. The Beatles called for unity and love in a time of of heightened emotions, while bands like War and Earth, Wind, and Fire, sought to raise awareness on topics that were deemed controversial, such as racism and classism in the early 80s. Depending on the intentions and beliefs of these artists, the music that is produced as a byproduct adjusts to meet the aforementioned goals.

With the rising death and addiction rates resulting from the opioid epidemic, it seems fit to raise the question of how artists and their music, specifically rap and hip hop, are influencing this national crisis, as coined by President Trump.Unfortunately none of the opioid literature that I've read today attempts to discuss this controversial yet important question. Most, if not all, touch upon the pharmaceutical industry's campaigns and increased prescriptions over the course of the decade as being the prime perpetrators. While these are indeed very important to consider, they are not enough to explain the culture that we are engulfed by.

After listening to many recent songs, most of which are on the top charts, by new sensations such as Future, 21 Savage, Post Malone, and Lil Pump (there are many more but for brevity's sake I decided to minimize it to the most influential) I was left distraught and disgusted by the amount of obscenity that was being advocated for. This doesn't include demonizing and objectifying women or spending money outrageously, although they're quite obscene in nature and require their own analysis. I am talking about prescription drugs, specifically benzos and opioid such as percocets.

Future, a rap artist who has a considerable fan base, released a song last year titled "Mask Off". Fans from all around the world repeated the two words "molly" and "percocets" for months on, until it got replaced with one of a similar message: "Xanax is the wave". Lil Pump, an upcoming artist who is known for his excessive use of painkillers and antidepressants has been a keen advocate of the drug Xanax. Most of his followers on Instagram and Twitter flock to his pages to gain inspiration from the unorthodox use of drugs, such as xanax cakes mixed cocktails, and indulgent binges.

As a matter of fact, according to recent statistics, xanax was found to be one of the most marketed products in rap music. The list included clothing brands such as Gucci and YSL, which are also indicative of the hedonistic lifestyle that is advocated for.

Just as big pharma conducted a set of imprudent marketing campaigns for their drugs targeting doctors and hospitals in the early 2000s, the music industry today should be held liable for the same set of faulty marketing techniques aimed at an even larger population that are easily swayed. Our youth culture is under attack by a virulent disease that permeates boundaries ever so easily, leaving little trace of its origins. It's silent, formless, and transcendent in nature, which makes it more difficult to prevent it from spreading. However, institutions that are in charge of censorship can play an extremely important role in impeding its development. This isn't a debate between freedom of speech and censorship, but rather, one between our youth's wellbeing and ideological brainwashing.

The literature around the root causes of substance abuse and addiction should be more wholistic to include sources that are rooted in pop culture and the music industry as they are just as important as evidence based causes, such as genetics and human biology.


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