Academic journal article Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

Substance Abuse in Performing Musicians

Academic journal article Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

Substance Abuse in Performing Musicians

Article excerpt


During their professional carrier musicians need to face many problems, which are directly involved with their own profession. Those problems include: fear, tension, stage fright and all consenquenses that might come out of each from these problems. As every musician's aim is to offer unforgettable performance to the audience, it is reasonable why fear, tension or stage fright influence performing musician so much. Each of these problems can endanger or disable performance. Every individual has it's own mechanism when facing fear,1 tension or stage fright and many of them are successful in dealing with all kind of problems that could endanger their performance. Unfortunately some of then cannot find their »way out«. In order to maintain good performance they are prone to take chemical substances , which will help them to solve their problems, both physiological and psychological.

Chemical substances and alcohol

I suppose that majority of general population would find it uncomfortable to participate when being exposed to the audience. Musicians are in similar situation very often. Most of them do find their own way to deal with stress, tension, fear and they make their performance successful. But some of them might have some physiological and psychological manifestions of fear and stage fright. Physiological manifestations are closely related to increased adrenalin secretion from suprarenal medulla2 and they include: tachycardia, palpitations, decreased salivation, palmar perspiration, tremor and many others, which are not so important for performing musician.

Among many chemical substances, cocaine is one of the most expanded among modern music performers, especially pop musicians. They use to snort cocaine, so it affects nasal mucosa, but it has many other effects such as: vasoconstriction, sensorium changes, reduced voice control and many other disorders. Cocaine also can be taken by smoking or intravenously and that is even more important for developing addiction, which is generally the outcome of repated cocaine taking. Of course, that is only the beginning of many other problems starting from behaviour disorders, family, relationship and criminal problems. Many of those who cannot fight against addiction come to the fatal end.

Alcohol is harmful for performing musicians because of decreased quality of vocal technique. Alcohol itself is harmful because it affects both central and peripheral nervous system and some of the consenquences include: balance disorder and reduced conciousness, tremor, polineuropathy and others, blocking optimal performance. Chronic alcohol abuse is harmful because of it's long term effect and some of them include: epileptic attacks, demention, hallucination etc. Many musicians, especially singers, develop allergic reaction to some wines and beers, so it is very controversial discussion whether or not they should drink one glass of wine, when only small amounts of alcohol were ingested. Nevertheless, small amounts of alcohol, according to many experiences, are not harmful for musician on the performance day. In case of allergy to some alcohol drink, musician should avoid alcohol at all. There are many reasons why musicians start drinking too much alcohol. One of the reasons might be family predisposition. Other reasons include: stress, stage fright and many others. Some of them are prone to alcohol abuse in order to stay focused while performing music during concert, as they don't want to make any mistake during their performance. At the beginning some alcohol might be helpful as musicians improve their performance dealing with stage fright at the same time. But in the future chronic alcohol abuse will bring nothing but harmful long-term consenquences to the performing musician.


Singers and windpipe players should not smoke at all, both for healthy and professional reasons. More and more scientific publications and newspaper articles remind us every day how smoking harmful is. …

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