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  • Many songs mention heroin use and addiction in their lyrics. 

    Historically, drug references are common in music. The effects of drug use may be mentioned directly. Other times, women or love interests can be a metaphor for drugs.

    Drug references in music can both glorify and criticize the drugs used. Heroin is no exception. Here are 10 songs about heroin addiction.

    1. “Heroin” By The Velvet Underground

    “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground has many direct descriptions of the effects of heroin.

    Lou Reed, the frontman and main lyricist of the band, said this song is simply about using heroin from the point of view of someone using it. He claims the song has neither a positive nor a negative message about drug use.

    2. “Under The Bridge” By Red Hot Chili Peppers

    Released in 1991, “Under The Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers has amassed millions of plays and downloads on mainstream radio and streaming services. 

    It is one of the most popular songs by the Los Angeles rock band, and deals with isolation and fear caused by heroin overdose and addiction.

    Lead singer and songwriter Anthony Kiedis has given interviews about the song, saying it was based on his own life. While he was living with heroin addiction, an encounter under a bridge with other people struggling with drug abuse inspired this song.

    3. “Time To Pretend” By MGMT

    “Time To Pretend” was a successful radio hit in the late 2000s. It also references “shoot[ing] heroin” and selling cocaine.

    The song fantasizes about living a fast, dangerous lifestyle. It both acknowledges and embraces the risks involved with a drug-heavy lifestyle.

    4. “Mr. Brownstone” By Guns N’ Roses

    Guns N’ Roses is one of many bands in the 1970s and 1980s that is known for abusing drugs and alcohol.

    Their 1987 song “Mr. Brownstone” talks about using heroin and building a tolerance to it. The title is a reference to how heroin is available in a brownish powder. 

    5. “Needle In The Hay” By Elliott Smith

    Many of Elliott Smith’s songs dealt with substance abuse and addiction. “Needle In The Hay” is one of his most direct. This song references track marks caused by injecting heroin.

    Elliot Smith’s passing in 2003 cut a promising music career short. It is widely believed that he took his own life, after long struggles with mental health, substance abuse, and addiction.

    6. “The Needle And The Damage Done” By Neil Young

    This song, released in 1972, is a mournful ballad. Over a lone acoustic guitar, Neil Young describes the pain and loss that can come with being addicted to heroin.

    “The Needle And The Damage Done” is also a tribute to Danny Whitten, a band member from Crazy Horse who died after a heroin overdose. Neil Young worked with Crazy Horse early in his career and was hit hard after Whitten’s death.

    7. “Black Balloon” By The Goo Goo Dolls

    “Black Balloon” by The Goo Goo Dolls is a shimmering pop song that deals with heroin addiction, and the toll it can take on a relationship. Since its release in 1998, it has been fairly successful.

    The name “black balloon” refers to heroin being illegally distributed and sold in black balloons. The song also has references to “flying” and “coming down,” which refer to the heroin high and painful crash that follows.

    8. “Beetlebum” By Blur

    “Beetlebum” by British rock band Blur talks about losing one’s grip on reality due to heroin and other drugs.

    Frontman Damon Albarn claims this song is about substance abuse during a relationship he had. The title comes from the term “chasing the beetle,” which describes a way to illegally smoke drugs.

    9. “Dead Flowers” By The Rolling Stones

    Iconic rock band The Rolling Stones’ history of heavy drug use is well-documented. References to drugs are in many of their songs.

    Their 1971 song “Dead Flowers” has the line “I’ll be in my basement room with a needle and a spoon.” Needles and spoons are often used to take heroin. Drug use seems to be a reason for the declining relationship in this song.

    10. “Dead Bird II” By McCafferty

    This song has the line “heroin makes me feel less crazy.” This is from the viewpoint of a person who is dependent on heroin to function. The narrator may have had a heroin addiction as well.

    Unlike the successful pop songs that combine slick production with lyrics about substance abuse, there is little brightness in this song. It is a cathartic, confrontational, and unsettling experience for both listener and composer alike.

    Treating Heroin Addiction

    Many songs have found radio success while dealing with serious topics like heroin use. Illicit drugs are a significant part of pop culture. While music can make use of storytelling to be entertaining and compelling, it is not a substitute for medical advice on substance abuse.

    To learn about our substance abuse treatment programs, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on July 29, 2022
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