1 in 3 Hit Songs Mentions Substance Abuse, Smoking

MONDAY Feb. 4, 2008 -- About one-third of hit songs -- including three-quarters of rap songs -- have some form of explicit reference to drug, alcohol or tobacco use, a new study found.

"Overall, 116 of the 279 unique songs (41.6 percent) had a substance use reference of any kind. Ninety-three songs (33.3 percent) contained explicit substance use references," wrote the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers.

Just under 3 percent of the songs mentioned smoking, but almost 24 percent touched on alcohol use, close to 14 percent depicted marijuana use and 11.5 percent depicted other or unspecified substance use, the researchers noted.

The researchers did their study by analyzing Billboard magazine's 279 most popular songs of 2005.

The overall rate of references varied widely by musical genre. One or more references to substance use were found in 48 of 62 rap songs (77 percent); 22 of 61 country songs (36 percent); 11 of 55 R&B/hip-hop songs (20 percent); nine of 66 rock songs (14 percent); and three of 35 pop songs (9 percent).

Of the 93 songs with explicit substance use references, the behaviors were frequently associated with partying (54 percent), sex (46 percent), violence (29 percent) and/or humor (24 percent). In these songs, substance use was most often motivated by peer/social pressure (48 percent) or sex (30 percent).

"Only four songs (4 percent) contained explicit anti-use messages, and none portrayed substance refusal," the study authors wrote. "Most songs with substance use (68 percent) portrayed more positive than negative consequences; these positive consequences were most commonly social, sexual, financial or emotional."

The study is published in the February issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The research was first presented in November at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

"Children and adolescents are heavily exposed to substance use in popular music, and this exposure varies widely by genre. Substance use in music is frequently motivated by peer acceptance and sex, and it has highly positive associations and consequences," the study authors concluded.

More information

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has more about children and substance abuse.

Posted: February 2008


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