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The Role Cultural Influences Play in Teen Addiction

As we all know, popular trends can have a huge influence on our behavior. Young people are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure in this regard. If the music popular among their peers glamorizes substance misuse, they are at risk. 

Rap culture has long influenced the attitudes of young people toward addictive drugs. A 2008 study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found a sixfold increase in drug references in rap music songs over the 1979–97 period. During this time, illegal drug use became increasingly linked to wealth, glamour, and social standing, marking a departure from earlier years, when rap music was more likely to have depicted negative consequences of drug misuse, according to study author Denise Herd.

“Rap music is especially appealing to young people, many of whom look up to rappers as role models,” Herd said. The UC Berkeley study documented a threefold increase in mentions of marijuana and marijuana-stuffed cigars, or “blunts,” and noted marijuana’s association in those songs with creativity, wealth and status. Another substance popular with fans of rap music is codeine-laced cough syrup, so-called “purple drank” or “lean.”

This homemade concoction of codeine (as contained in many cough medicines), a soda like Sprite or Mountain Dew, and Jolly Ranchers, is then typically sipped out of a double-stacked styrofoam cup. Many young people are completely unaware that codeine is an opioid that belongs to the same class of drugs as heroin. Many parents know very little about what’s going on in contemporary rap music.

In recent years, the negative consequences of drug worship have been exposed dramatically. The rapper Lil Peep fatally overdosed on fentanyl and Xanax in November 2017. His frequent use of a variety of illicit drugs was driven by mental health issues. The drug use of rapper Mac Miller was also largely driven by co-occurring mental health conditions. He died in 2018 from an overdose due to the mixed drug toxicity of fentanyl, alcohol, and cocaine. 

For a long time, many rappers have positively portrayed substance use in their music. Currently, however, the tide is turning somewhat with several young rappers spelling out the severe consequences of addiction and mental illness in an effort to raise awareness and fight the stigma connected with substance use disorders.