Addiction and rehabilitation in autobiographical books by rock artists, 1974–2010

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Introduction and Aims

This paper explores excessive appetites, addiction and rehabilitation as described in the autobiographies, memoirs and diaries of rock artists.

Design and Methods

The data collection focused on autobiographical rock books written in English by internationally recognised rock artists before 2011. In total, 96 autobiographical books were published between 1974 and 2010. The mean age of the authors was 50 years and 17% of the books were by female authors. Data were encoded for: (i) addiction; (ii) the object of addiction; (iii) personal addiction; (iv) rehabilitation; (v) personal rehabilitation; and (vi) the type of recovery from the addiction.


Of the books, 82% described addiction, 62% personal addiction, 57% rehabilitation and 40% personal participation in rehabilitation. The most common addictions were alcoholism, opiate addiction and cocaine addiction. Addicted rock stars described addictions differently from non-addicts. Of addicted rock artists, 51% recovered with the help of rehabilitation, 42% self-recovered and 7% continued the excess. There has been an increase in the prevalence of addiction in autobiographical rock books over time. In addition, it was found that gender affected the type of recovery.

Discussion and Conclusions

Autobiographical books by rock artists have been published in increasing numbers in the last two decades. The artists in question have described their personal experiences of addiction and rehabilitation and discussed the problems related to alcohol, drugs and excessive behaviour. The books do not glamorise addiction or excessive lifestyles. Rather, they indicate that attitudes towards drugs and alcohol are changing in the rock business.

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