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How Music Can Be Used to Fight Drug Abuse Among the Youth

By Simon Mwangi

Popular music the world over is barraged with song lyrics embellishing extravagant lifestyles of the rich and famous, fancy cars, and wild adventures. Listeners hear songs condoning the use of illicit drugs and consuming large amounts of alcohol.

Kenya is experiencing a budding local music scene that has been propped by the numerous opportunities brought about by technological advancement. While this is a positive attribute and progress in the creative arts, there is a growing concern on how music is promoting the use of alcohol and drugs among the youth. This is either through the lyrics in the songs or videos showcasing blatant drug use among artistes who are supposed to be role models.

The relationship between drugs and music is also reflected in the lyrics and in the way they are composed by artists, some of whom are undoubtedly influenced by the plentiful quantities of heroin, cocaine and other substances they consume, as their songs sometimes reveal.

On the flipside, music can be used as a very powerful tool in the campaign against alcohol and drug abuse. Music has been proven to affect human perception, and human perception can influence crowd behavior in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Already, listening to music without the influence of drugs is rewarding, can reduce stress-depending on the type of music listened to-and improve feelings of belonging to a social group. Songs can be employed for: advocacy; social mobilization; information dissemination and awareness creation.

Ibrahim Osborn, a Kenyan musician famed for the ‘mundu mulosi’ hit is an example of how music can be used as a strong tool against alcohol and drug abuse. The artist revealed that years back he saw a problem of drug abuse among the youth in his hometown, and he decided to relocate his music studio from Nairobi to the countryside so as to respond to the problem. He further admits to having been a drug addict at one time in his life.

Music can also offer a lifeline of hope and inspiration especially when they speak to the battle of addiction and share encouragement for recovery. The way people interact with music goes beyond lyrics and the content of the music itself. Music choices often define the subcultures that many young people embrace.

Studies have shown that the tone and rhythm of music can help listeners understand how they are meant to perceive a message. Music offers significant entertainment and emotional value. When used to enhance strategic behavior change communication content, music can both help inform and create a deeper connection with listeners.

Everyone can relate to the experience of listening to a miserable playlist and then not being able to escape the mood. But, according to research, even how we perceive the world around us can be influenced by music.
Audiences can benefit as well, by being exposed to the accomplishments of young people, by learning more about substance abuse, and perhaps by participating in some solution building. Ultimately, the whole community can become a safer, more supportive environment.

For individuals who find themselves seeking peace at the bottom of a bottle, songs about alcohol addiction can help encourage a realization of the greater issue. The same applies for songs about drug addiction.