Study finds U.S. music awash in booze and drugs

Reuters Feb 4, 2008

U.S. popular music is awash with lyrics about drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Medical researchers have reviewed the words of the 279 top songs of 2005 to estimate just how common they are. Their report on Monday showed a third of the songs had explicit references to substance abuse. And two-thirds of these references placed drugs, alcohol and tobacco in a positive light by associating them with sex, partying and humor, according to the team led by Dr. Brian Primack of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

They calculated that with Americans aged 15 to 18 listening to 2.4 hours of music daily, they hear 84 musical references to substance use a day and more than 30,000 a year. Certain genres contained more references than others — for example, rap and country music far more so than pop. The study did not quantify references to sex, violence or expletives. Primack noted that music and popular culture in general long have been infused with substance use references.

…The study, published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, did not draw conclusions about the music’s effect on young listeners. But the researchers said there is evidence that exposure to certain media messages can increase substance use among adolescents.