Attending Rock Concerts Where Drugs Are in the Air

Contributor: Life Healing Center clinical content team member Hugh C. McBride.

Image of people at a concert where Drugs are often usedFor two weekends in the summer of 2015, the four surviving members of the Grateful Dead reunited for five sold-out farewell shows in Santa Clara, California, and Chicago, Illinois. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the year that the band first took the stage, the events were brimming with nostalgia, tie-dye, and drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.

The connection between the Grateful Dead and drugs goes back to the band’s earliest days, when they were the house band for the LSD-drenched “Acid Test” events put on by author Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters. But the presence of mind-altering substances is hardly exclusive to bands that got their start in the 1960s.

As anyone with even the slightest familiarity with loud music knows, it’s impossible to fully enjoy a rock concert without drugs, right?


Drugs Are Still Part of Concerts

Contrary to those who believe that “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” is a mission statement, staying sober and enjoying live music are not mutually exclusive pursuits. Many people attend concerts and enjoy the experience without consuming anything stronger than a Diet Coke.

However, for people who are in recovery, concerts can pose two distinct problems: memories of previous substance abuse at similar events can be a trigger and the prevalence of alcohol and other drugs can be a dangerous temptation.

concert-768807This doesn’t mean that being in recovery requires that a person never again attend a live music event,though people who are new to recovery or who are struggling to stay sober may be wise to avoid concerts and other situations that may trigger relapse. When a person’s progress in recovery has reached the point where he or she can attend concerts without significant risk of relapse, certain precautions may still be called for.

Getting Help for a Concert Experience

One of the most important steps for staying sober at a concert may also be one of the most common elements of successful recovery: have help. For some people, this may involve being accompanied to the concert by a trusted friend, sober coach, or other individual who can provide necessary support. In other cases, being involved with a group that values both music and sobriety may be the key to successfully navigating the concert experience.

For example, at Grateful Dead shows, members of a recovery support group known as the Wharf Rats (named after a popular Dead tune) staff information tables before, during, and after shows.

Though the group is not affiliated with any specific program or philosophy, members also hold a 12-step-style meeting during intermission. The Wharf Rats also hold non-concert related meetings, maintain a website, and send out an occasional newsletter. Fans of other popular bands have formed similar groups, such as The Phellowship (for Phish fans), The Gateway (for Widespread Panic enthusiasts) and The Jellyfish (for admirers of The String Cheese Incident).

Incorporating Recovery from Drugs into Everyday Life

A concert where Drugs run rampantWhether a person engages with a band-specific support group or relies on the support of trusted individuals, some form of interpersonal assistance can be essential. But the effort doesn’t stop there.

One important element of getting treatment for a substance use disorder is learning how to incorporate the principles of healthy recovery into everyday life. Though it may be necessary to eliminate contact with some people or avoid certain situations entirely, pursuing successful long-term recovery is most often a matter of learning how to prepare for, manage, and process the myriad daily experiences and emotions that may trigger relapse.

Skills to Apply Sobriety to Your Life

The same skills that can be applied to office parties, holiday gatherings, and similar situations can serve you well when you attend a concert.

  • Plan ahead: Prepare yourself before the event, especially regarding how you will deal with potential triggers. Will a certain song bring up unhealthy thoughts? Will the smell of marijuana smoke incite the urge to use? If you can’t avoid these experiences, decide ahead of time how you will deal with these experiences, and be sure to share your thoughts with the people with whom you’ll be attending the show.
  • Manage expectations: If this is your first sober concert, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to have the time of your life in order for this experience to be a success. Making it all the way through the show might be enough. This is just one of many steps on your path.
  • Have support: This cannot be repeated enough. Talk through your concerns before the concert, bring one or more trusted individuals with you, and don’t be afraid to ask them for help if you need it, even if that help takes the form of leaving before the show is over.

No matter what happens, remember that this is just one experience. If it is a struggle, then use it as a learning experience. If it goes well, be proud, but don’t let your guard down. The path of recovery is neither straight nor smooth. But it is most definitely worth the effort.

About the Author:

Hugh C. McBride has several years of experience researching and writing on a wide range of topics related to behavioral healthcare. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Grove City College.

About Life Healing Center:

Located in the Sangre de Cristo foothills overlooking beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, Life Healing Center is a place of personal transformation for adults aged 18 and above who are struggling with trauma, chemical dependency, intimacy disorders, and co-occurring psychiatric disorders. Treatment at Life Healing Center is a holistic experience in which time-tested techniques and emerging therapeutic methodologies are combined into a clinically sophisticated approach that addresses each patient’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Care is provided by a board-certified psychiatrist, master’s level therapists, licensed drug and alcohol counselors, certified sex addiction therapists, nurses, clinical technicians, and contracted ancillary service providers.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on August 5, 2015
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 6, 2021
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