Addiction is a real problem for many people, but songs about addiction can help you remember that you’re not alone. Similarly, a song about recovery can help show hope for the future. Whether you’re dealing with addiction yourself or you have someone in your life with that struggle, here are some songs to help you through.
The A Team by Ed Sheeran
Song year: 2011
Few artists are known more for their heartfelt ballads than Ed Sheeran, and he continues to show off his skill. The A Team is the first of Sheeran’s songs to receive a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year, touching on the complexities and heartbreak of addiction.
Although ostensibly a pop song, The A Team crosses over into alternative styling with some of its wistful and remorseful looks at what addiction can do to people.
Rehab by Amy Winehouse
Song year: 2006
Few things have a closer connection to addiction than rehab, a point Amy Winehouse focused on as part of the album Back to Black. The lyrics focus on one of the struggles that people have, which is a reluctance to go into rehab when they don’t think it will work.
Rehab can be especially hard for anyone who doesn’t think they have the time to go through it, which Winehouse discusses at several points in the song. While it may not be the happiest look at addiction, it is honest about the struggle, and that’s something it’s better to face sooner.
Jane Says by Jane’s Addiction
Pop and rock are always interesting choices for songs about addiction, where band Jane’s Addiction decided to write a song about their friend Jane Bainter. Although not obviously about addiction at first glance, the song includes a discussion of the complex interplay of love, life, and drugs that people can experience.
Addiction isn’t new, but many songs about it are more recent than Jane Says, which makes this an interesting retrospective on both the topic and how artists have thought about addiction over time.
Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind
Song year: 1997
Winning the Billboard Music Award’s prize for Modern Rock Track of the Year, Semi-Charmed Life takes a close look at the highs and inevitable lows of addiction, referencing crystal meth directly and some of the social pressures that people can experience when they’re a star.
At the same time, Semi-Charmed Life includes a few lines on how people tend to pretend that things are okay when addiction has its hold, even if they’re not. It’s an important thing to remember, all delivered alongside one of the year’s best tracks.
The Needle and the Damage Done by Neil Young
Song year: 1972
Neil Young is one of the oldest artists on this list, and this song is one of the shortest at a hair over two minutes long. However, it’s a powerful folk song that speaks directly to the heart of what people on the outside see when they look at addiction, with clear damage and the inevitable fall that being a junkie leads to.
That said, this song came out before many modern treatments for addiction. It’s good to remember that people who may have been gone in the past can still have a chance in modern days, so the sooner you get help for addiction, the better.
Moonshiner by Cat Power
Song year: 1998
Addiction isn’t always in the form of a needle. Alcohol addiction is easily one of the most common problems people face, and Moonshiner gets straight to the point in a song about getting alcohol wherever possible, including making it.
Problems with alcohol can go far beyond the bottle, though, with some people convinced that it will kill them but unable to stay away from the bottle because being without it is even worse.
Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie
Song year: 1980
Another older song, Ashes to Ashes, is a pop song from one of the industry’s all-time greatest singers. This song deals with his struggle with cocaine addiction and, to a lesser extent, some other drugs.
Ashes to Ashes also features an unusual storytelling style. Rather than being a personal view, he brought back the iconic character of Major Tom from his hit song Space Oddity. The result is a look at both the inside and the outside of a beloved star and a clear reminder that we’re not alone in our struggles.
Master of Puppets by Metallica
Song year: 1986
Metallica’s 1986 Thrash/Rock hit is about nine minutes long, featuring a range of tempo changes and technical skills that consistently put it on any list of the best rock songs ever.
The lyrics come from the point of view of drugs and addiction, with a single taste being the only thing necessary to convince some people that the only thing they need in life is more of their fix. Drugs can be someone’s master with far too small of a taste, but the powerful instrumentals provide an interesting balance to the lyrics.
It’s Been Awhile by Staind
Song year: 2001
A complex song mixing elements of metal, pop, rock, and grunge, Staind’s hit from his album Break the Cycle is instantly recognizable to many people, even if they don’t remember the artist.
The lyrics focus on time and how long it can be between points where someone in the clutches of addiction can be genuinely proud of themselves and their relationships with others. However, it’s also possible to pull away from the problems in the right environment. So it’s essential never to forget that light in the darkness.
The House of the Rising Sun by The Animals
Song year: 1964
Another truly iconic song, this melodic pop-rock hit mixes in elements of the blues for its somber look at family and drugs. The titular house in New Orleans is the ruin of those who visit it, and that can extend to family.
More unusually, this song focuses on two types of addiction. One is alcohol, which has been an issue for ages, but the other is the gambling addiction. Many people don’t recognize gambling as the same sort of addiction as drugs, but even without a needle or a line of power, it can exert a grip all the same.
Hurt by Johnny Cash
Song year: 2002
One of the last songs Johnny Cash ever recorded, Hurt is a powerful country-rock ballad that focuses on the end of an addict’s life. The music is mostly the background for his exceptionally powerful vocals, which move between the focus on pain and feeling alive to the heartfelt desire to try again, free of the grasp of addiction.
It’s an interesting choice as the finale for a storied singer’s life, and it’s nearly impossible to avoid feeling uncomfortable when faced with the harsh, inevitable end of addiction. This isn’t a happy song, but sometimes, a different kind of hurt is necessary to break out of addiction.
Dope by Lady Gaga
Song year: 2013
Few artists are quite as distinctive and flamboyant as Lady Gaga, and she’s never been one to turn down a tough topic. Dope discusses a range of issues with addiction, including self-recrimination for mistakes, the need for help from others, and finding something that matters more than drugs.
Beyond its regular lyrics, though, Dope emphasizes the paradoxical pain of how living high can bring you so low. Even in the depths of that misery, though, it’s worth finding something else to care about.
Heroin by The Velvet Underground
Song year: 1967
Some songs beat around the bush when discussing a sensitive topic. The Velvet Underground doesn’t go for subtlety in this rock classic, though, with lyrics that focus on the effect of taking heroin and how quickly it can change your opinion of what’s important.
People often turn to drugs as an escape from things they don’t like, but that escape quickly becomes a different type of prison. It’s important to remember why people start, but also how it can take something different to lead them back out again.
Hunger by Florence + The Machine
Song year: 2018
Hunger is a much newer song about addiction, touching on some of the modern ideals and problems about it. However, it also recognizes the impact of things, and how trying to gain something through addiction just results in losing it instead.
Hunger also takes note of the way that most people want something, even if they’re not always sure what it is. Looking for satisfaction can end well, but if you go down the wrong path, it usually doesn’t.
Cocaine by Jackson Browne
Song year: 1975
Jackson Browne’s folk song from his album Live At Main Point is another tune that gets straight to the point and doesn’t bother to try and hide what it’s about. Though it’s not a long song, it discusses several important points, from having a dealer to the effects of drugs on the body.
As Browne notes in the song, drugs can have a huge effect on your body, harming and aging people much faster than normal. Yet even when people are in the hospital, it can be hard to be objective about an addiction.
Amazing by Aerosmith
Song year: 1993
Aerosmith is one of the most well-known bands in pop and rock, and Amazing focuses on how good drugs can make you feel when you start taking them. When you’re lonely, desperate, or depressed, anything that makes you feel better can feel like salvation even when it isn’t.
If there’s anything to learn from this song, it’s not that drugs are a way out. Instead, it’s better to recognize that solving what makes people desperate can be much better for them than just removing the drugs but otherwise leaving them in despair.
Sober by Kelly Clarkson
Song year: 2007
Sober is one of the more optimistic songs about addiction, with a look at the emotional turmoil that can come with a breakup or the end of another significant event. The lyrics agree that some things are never truly over, but with time, it’s possible to grow past the pain, keep breathing, and hold on to the good things while discarding the bad.
That’s an important thing to remember in any addiction. Pain is often at its worst when it’s fresh, but if you can hold on, the sharp suffering can fade to a quieter ache in the background.
The Drugs Don’t Work by The Verve
Song year: 1997
Songs about addiction often discuss the high points of drugs because they’re hard to forget, but The Verve takes an unconventional look at things with talk of a time when the drugs aren’t enough to change things even temporarily. At the same time, they look at how strong the urge to stay on drugs can be, regardless of whether they’re working.
This is one of the many ways in which drugs are complicated in our lives. They don’t have to provide any benefits to be addicting, and any benefits usually turn rotten before too long.
Blister in the Sun by The Violent Femmes
Song year: 1983
Originally written for a female vocalist, many people misinterpreted this song as being about masturbation (which can be its own type of addiction). However, founding member Gordon Gano eventually set the record straight, detailing that it was about the feelings that come from drug abuse.
Meanwhile, a blister in the sun is extraordinarily painful, but even that pain and the departure of a loved one may not be enough to get over addiction. The longer it goes, the worse things tend to get, but this rhythmic rock song lives on in people’s minds.
Starting Over by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Song year: 2012
Drugs aren’t a rare topic in rap, but artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis bring a lot of personal experience in a song about starting over. One of the most painful situations imaginable is to be getting out of addiction, only to have to look at your family and tell them you’ve relapsed. However, as the artists sing, lying about it can be even worse.
The pain of failing others is always there in addiction, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up even if there are missteps along the way. In many cases, you have to go through something to get over it, regardless of how much it hurts.
Strung Out Johnny by Iggy Pop
Song year: 2023
One of the newest songs about addiction, Strung Out Johnny takes a look at how easy it is for drug use to spiral out of control. One moment you’re with a friend, and the next you’re taking drugs whenever and wherever you have the opportunity. Life can only get worse from there.
Modern music has a different style than older songs, but in some ways, it’s comforting to know that people are still fighting addiction. Having none would be better, but recognizing the problems means people still haven’t given up.
The Bottle by Gil Scott-Heron
Song year: 1974
A song that’s older than many people realize, Scott-Heron wrote this song after talking to some alcoholics near a Virginia store. At the time of writing, most people merely slandered alcoholics, and Scott-Heron wanted to try and tell the story about people’s decline into alcohol rather than just insulting them as others did.
The song focuses on wine, but all types of alcohol can fit the story, and how legal drugs available for cheap can often do more harm than good. When an illegal market is even worse, though, you have to face the complexities of the world.
Vasoline by Stone Temple Pilots
Song year: 1994
Vaseline is a song that’s harder to understand until you know what all of the lyrics mean. In this context, the title is a copyright-avoiding spelling of vaseline, which some people use to help prevent scabs from heroin needles.
From there, the song focuses on trying to get away from problems but being stuck in them regardless of efforts to get away from them. On a lighter note, though, band member Scott Weiland said the repeating lyric of “flies in the vaseline” came from mishearing Life in the Fast Lane by the Eagles, showing how comedy can lead to introspection.
Sober by Tool
Song year: 1993
A mix of progressive metal and hard rock styles, Tool’s Sober mixes faith with the desire to get sober and move past addiction. However, it also focuses on some of the pain and regret that come from knowing you’re just as likely to bring others down if you try to accept their help.
Addicts often hate their behavior but can’t control themselves, desperately wishing there could be a way to get through. With enough help, though, most addictions are treatable.
Drive by Blind Melon
Song year: 1992
Drive is a look at addiction from the outside, with the lens of a friend helping someone they care about who constantly needs help. Drive touches on several of the pains that people outside addiction can experience, including the worry that each time they see a friend will be the last.
It’s a chilling reminder that addiction doesn’t limit its harm to anyone taking drugs or compulsively gambling their money away. Addiction can hurt everyone around them, but someone too deep in its thrall may never even notice.
A Reason to Fight by Disturbed
Song year: 2018
A more modern look at addiction, A Reason to Fight looks at the difficulties of addiction with a challenging style, unwilling to give up and surrender to the rush. Having a reason to fight is important for overcoming addiction because it leaves something beyond the loss of a high to focus on.
In that sense, this is one of the most important songs on this list, even if it’s not as well-known as many other metal songs.
(And we’ve got a lot of good metal songs if you like the genre.)
She Talks to Angels by The Black Crowes
Song year: 1990
The Black Crowes get right to the point in this song, with a story about a girl who talks to angels in the thrall of her addiction. From a broader view, though, this song is about how someone suffering from addiction can be completely disconnected from reality, physically unable to recognize or process the truth because of what the drugs do to them.
Addiction is fundamentally unreasonable, and sometimes the only way to deal with it is to ignore how someone feels and get them the help they need.
Sober by Childish Gambino
Song year: 2014
Childish Gambino (the stage name for artist Donald Glover) may be most famous for the shocking imagery in the music video of This Is America, but his earlier work Sober is a powerful song in its own right. The lyrics focus on turning to alcohol after a bad breakup, with an admission of never wanting to stop the drugs because of the pain from a relationship.
The lyrics touch on Glover’s own life, with personal fears about someone leaving him despite his accomplishments. People who are used to the high points can feel the lows of life far more intensely. If there’s optimism here, though, it’s that Glover has largely moved past alcoholism in life, showing that feelings like this song don’t last forever.
Mr. Brownstone by Guns N’ Roses
Song year: 1987
Featured on the debut album from one of the most iconic bands of all time, Mr. Brownstone is slang for heroin, which band guitarists Stradlin and Slash were addicted to at the time. Notably, it emphasizes how they grew tolerance to heroin, so they wound up taking more and more.
Mr. Brownstone is an intensely personal song, with personal experience going beyond emotion. Slash, in particular, came close to dying several times from trying to alleviate his boredom. Substance abuse aside, GNR is a truly fantastic band, and Mr. Brownstone is easily worth the listen.
Rehab by Machine Gun Kelly
Song year: 2017
One of the newer entries on this list, Rehab focuses on a desire to avoid help and start over sober, while acknowledging that it may not last. However, in a less-common lyrical focus, Rehab also considers the question of what happens when both people in a relationship are addicted.
Addiction is bad enough when only one person feels it directly, but when two or more people are addicted together, it can be even harder to stop. Many modern songs about addiction tend toward rap as a preferred genre, which makes sense given rap’s willingness to tackle hard topics, and Rehab is one of the best examples of this.
Recovery by James Arthur
Song year: 2013
Many songs about addiction come from the United States, but addiction is a global phenomenon. British singer James Arthur exemplifies this, with his song Recovery coming in at about four and a half minutes to discuss his struggles with addiction.
Recovery is fundamentally optimistic, discussing Arthur’s efforts to create his recovery and move past his addiction. He also ties music into things, acknowledging that songwriting is one of the things helping him and showing yet again that having a goal to strive towards is valuable for overcoming addiction.
Going Through Changes by Eminem
Song year: 2010
Eminem is easily one of the most recognizable rappers in history, with a storied career full of hits. Although he’s known for writing lyrics to cut others down to size, Going Through Changes focuses on his own life and a harsh, honest look at problems and the willingness to tackle them.
Eminem delivers it all with his signature skill and lyrical flair, which elevated him from a nobody into a generation-defining artist.
Breaking the Habit by Linkin Park
Song year: 2003
Breaking The Habit is more melodic than many of Linkin Park’s contemporaries, but it’s characteristic of their nu-metal style and willingness to mix more noticeable lyrics on top of the songs they’re playing.
Breaking The Habit investigates the complexities of addiction, including confusion at how someone reached a point in their life and what they can do to try and get past it. Beneath that, however, it’s a fundamentally optimistic song that emphasizes breaking the habit of addiction even if you don’t know what you’re fighting for.
This song is particularly good if you’re trying to break your habits. Even small boosts in motivation can add up and give the strength to move forward. It may be the last entry on this list, but in some ways, Breaking the Habit is the best song in this whole collection.
Songs About Addiction & Recovery, Final Thoughts
Addiction is terrible. That said, songs about addiction look at it from every angle, from the harm it causes to relationships to the reasons people start the path towards drugs in the first place. If you take anything away from this list, it should be that you’re not alone, no matter how bad anyone’s addiction may seem.