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How Your Favorite Tunes Can Help in Recovery

By: Shreya Yedla


Music, a form of art, is described as a way to express emotions through harmonies and melodies. Music is proven not only to calm the mind, but also to heal the “void” one might be facing, which for some people has led to addiction. The brain releases chemicals, like dopamine, that make us feel good while listening to our favorite songs. There are many factors that influence our musical preferences, including instrumental rhythm and lyrics. These are the very same features that connect with the mind and help in recovery. 


Instrumental music – According to Drugfree, young people who listen to loud music are twice as likely to smoke marijuana and are six times more likely to drink 5+ alcoholic drinks. However, according to Audio-Technica, listening to music can alter brainwave speed, producing brain activity that has a therapeutic effect on the mind and body. From this perspective, it can be said that if used in the right manner, instrumental music can be used to guide people from addiction to recovery. 

Lyrics – Many artists use music as a medium to talk about their struggles, including their journeys to have fully recovered from addiction and substance use. Some of these popular artists and their songs include “Sober” by Pink, “Breaking the Habit” by Linkin Park, “Not Afraid” by Eminem, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. Those trying to recover not only find these struggles and stories relatable but also find a sense of inspiration while paying attention to these lyrics. 


Music is very diverse in nature. In today's music culture, as previously mentioned, many artists use this platform to talk about their struggles with drugs and addiction. It’s a story that many can relate to, and this encourages people to bring about change in themselves. Some may disagree, pointing out the few artists who unintentionally encourage substance use and trigger addictive behavior in people, especially through visual media. For example, EDM is known to fuel drug addiction through raves and media, especially in young people, because of its euphoria-like and wild nature. For those trying to recover from substance use, it is advised to approach a different path in terms of music. In a more severe case where music itself has little effect in recovery, music therapy may be recommended. 

Music therapy is using music in accordance with an individual’s needs, preferences, and goals. It might include songwriting, singing, listening, or even tweaking instrumental music to one’s liking. Researchers agree that it has the potential to significantly heal a person—emotionally and physically—in terms of treatment for substance misuse. Music therapy encourages people to sing and listen, which fosters healthy bonding by creating a mutual understanding and communication about a common problem or challenge. In many cases, people in recovery from substance misuse also experience depression, for which music therapy is also a powerful tool. 


For those interested in music therapy, prior music training or experience is not required. These sessions are covered by many insurance companies. For more information and to connect with local music therapists, please click on this link

To find additional support and recovery resources, check out our resources page here. If you are in recovery, you can become a member of the International Quit & Recovery Registry by registering here, where you can take our monthly assessments, earn rewards, and get support from other Recovery Heroes. We would love to have you as part of our community.


For questions or comments, contact us at! We look forward to hearing from you.


​1. Brown, K. (2020). “The Healing Qualities of Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment” PsychCentral. Retrieved from

2. Chen, M. J., Miller, B. A., Grube, J. W., & Waiters, E. D. (2006). “Music, substance use, and aggression.” Journal of studies on alcohol, 67(3), 373–381. Retrieved from

3. Garrido, S., Baker, F. A., Davidson, J. W., Moore, G., & Wasserman, S. (2015). Music and trauma: the relationship between music, personality, and coping style. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 977. Retrieved from

4. Moore, K. S. (2011). “Why Listening to Music Makes Us Feel Good.” Psychology Today. Retrieved from

5. Murray, K. (2018).“Drugs and Music: Are Your Favorite Songs Fueling Your Addiction?” Addiction Center. Retrieved from

6. “Teens Who Listen to High-Volume Music at Greater Risk of Substance Abuse.” (2012) DrugFree. Retrieved from

7. “The Science behind the Relaxing Effects of Music.” (2017). Audio-Technica. Retreived from

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