There are concerns that the music industry has been over-run with drugs and alcohol amid a culture of ‘self-destruction’ among young male and female musicians and entertainers alike. Many have embraced the dark side of the music industry and ended up in more trouble than they courted. Does the music industry overly glamorize and perpetuate the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol? Are celebrities living on the edge with their lifestyle? Are they doing exactly what they sing in their songs? ADAEZE ANAEKWE WRITES….

Picture this scenario: A young teenager spends all his time in the studio recording a song. That song becomes a hit in the country, and the shy teen has to come up on stage and perform it to a crowd of people.

He has never done this before, he is scared. As if on cue, beads of sweat begin to line his brow, his arms are sweaty and he undergoes a panic attack. His heart is racing, nausea joins the party, and he breaks down with stage-fright. Out of nowhere, someone on his team offers him a pill to make that feeling go away. He swallows, feels it go down into his stomach and enter his bloodstream, his apprehension and panic vanish like lightning and he feels super-charged, ready to take on the crowd and give you the best performance ever.

Welcome to the world of Nigerian music, where the consumption of illegal substances aka hard drugs fuel creativity.

Most of our Nigerian entertainers feel that taking alcohol, attending the latest night clubs or indulging in drugs makes them appear wealthy to their fans. Living one’s life to the fullest and living one’s life extravagantly is a different ball game altogether. Extravagance is something that one’s spirit ‘thinks’ is a necessity, but this could be wrong.

This lifestyle of always showing off was what landed one of Nigeria’s top Afro-pop artistes Davido involved in an alleged murder dilemma. Their journey to stardom, though may be tortuous, requires a lot of perseverance but achieving and maintaining untainted records having reached the peak of their careers continue to remain elusive to most entertainment stars with drinks, drug and sex being their major pitfalls.

It was revealed that hard drugs are more prevalent and cheaper as they are on sale at most night clubs all over Lagos. Some of these hard drugs and drinks available in Nigeria include Tequila, Big H (heroine), Happy dust, Crack, Devil drug, M&M, Do a line, Mojo, China girl, Idiot pills, Joy juice, Red bullets, Apache, Caps, Good fellas, Fantasy, Brown sugar, Charley, Stuff (cocaine), Italian brown, Purple, Honey oil, Marijuana, Aunty Mary, Club Drug, Beans, Blue devils, Mexican crack, Crank, Go fast, Big O, Chinese tobacco, Crackers, Angel dust juice, Gym candy and Codeine.

According to experts, hard drugs work as central nervous system (CNS) depressants by slowing down neural activity in both the brain and the body. The brain and spinal cord make up the two main organs in the CNS. Narcotics effects are believed to cause the nervous system to slow down.

Apart from the CNS, experts say hard drugs weaken the immune system, thereby increasing susceptibility to infections. They cause cardiovascular conditions ranging from abnormal heart rate to heart attacks, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In most cases, hard drugs cause the liver to have to work harder, possibly causing significant damage or liver failure.

We are not saying that it is a bad thing to enjoy or spoil oneself a bit, but moderation should be the key.  It’s a good thing to enjoy your money especially after working so hard to earn them but there is certainly what is called simplicity. But just as Coco Chanel opined “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”

The amount spent on these luxuries is more than enough to cater for so many helpless children. It could be recalled that the social media was eroded with the calls for OJB kidney transplant. Fans were shocked at the nonchalant attitude of music stars that were expected to rise up in unison and help raise cash. Some did after so much pressure from fans while a host of them didn’t. This is not to say OJB didn’t plan for himself. He had spent so much on treating himself while his musical career suffered.

Legendary reggae singer, Majekodunmi Fasheke, aka Majek Fashek remains a major reference point of the evil of hard drugs to youths treading this perilous path. In 2015, it was revealed that Fashek battled with drug addiction and was admitted into a drug rehabilitation centre in Abuja after admitting that he needed help.

On November 17, 2013, Nigeria lost a rising music star in Olufemi Mayomi, aka Fada U-turn. He was reported to have died after a long battle with kidney disease. He was rumoured to have used hard drugs.

Fada U-turn’s death was preceded by the demise of another music star, Susan Oluwabimpe, popularly known as Goldie Harvey. Goldie died on February 14, 2013, just hours after she arrived from Los Angeles, where she had gone to experience the Grammy Awards. Although the result of the autopsy carried out on the late singer indicated that she died as a result of an “intra-cerebral hemorrhage” caused by “hypertensive heart disease”, rumour also linked the talented singer to hard drugs.

Similar allegation also trailed the late rap music star, Olaitan Oladapo, popularly known as Dagrin, who died exactly eight days after he was involved in a ghastly motor accident in front of Alakara Police Station, Agege Motor Road, Mushin, Lagos. He survived a serious head injury as a result of the crash and was initially admitted at Tai Solarin Hospital, Mushin, before being transferred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, (LUTH), Idi Araba, where he later died.

In 2007, Nollywood actor, Uche Odoputa, was also arrested with cocaine at the international airport in Lagos. Unknown to many of his fans, the actor who was on his way to London was sentenced to eight months in prison.

Also, veteran comic actor Babatunde Omidina aka Baba Suwe was arrested in 2011 at the Muritala Mohammed airport in Lagos. He was about to board a flight when officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) took him into custody on suspicion of carrying hard drugs. But after weeks in their custody, NDLEA officials admitted he had failed to excrete any drugs.

This is certainly true for some, but there are also those who have reached the upper echelons of mega stardom, only to lose it all in the blink of an eye. Some managed their money badly. Some lost everything to the managers and promoters who were supposed to be looking after their affairs. And some spent all their money on lavish mansions, expensive cars and various addictions. They can learn from the world’s richest men who dedicate a percentage of their wealth to the needy. They aren’t getting poorer.

Celebrities may be at special risk but speaking with some stakeholders in the Nigerian entertainment industry, they revealed that they are addressing the menace. The shocking stories are familiar – lives being cut short and dreams shattered by constant alcohol and drug abuse.

The availability of the so-called ‘cool factor’ which is quite disapproving, plays a bigger part in the entertainment business than other professions. The industry is less tolerant of drug use now than a few years ago. Those who work with celebrities say the key to dealing with drug abuse is early intervention, effective treatment and a support system. They say recovery can be a lifelong process. In the music industry, there is majority because they see it as a source of inspiration.

Music is one of the most influential art forms of today’s society, and drugs, especially to today’s youth, just add to the attractiveness of it all. The music industry is a fast paced glamorous world that many of us will never be part of. In many instances, there is more than meets the eyes. Drugs, especially heroin, have risen in use dramatically.

Ironically, these acts have sold millions of albums. Since kids emulate popular musicians, what is there to keep them from emulating their drug ridden lifestyles? Moreover, what’s to keep the majority of the population from doing the same? Nowadays, there is not a person in the world who hasn’t heard about the rising spate of drug use and eventual abuse.

Many acts in the music industry who are struggling with the available excesses worry that if they turn their backs on drugs, they will lose what makes their music good or what makes them appealing to their fans. It’s simply not true. It is better to control it or you will lose your career. If you’re lucky, that is all you will lose and not your life.

Artistes’ bad behaviors shouldn’t in any way be interesting to society. It should be frowned at and greatly discouraged. You don’t need to drink or use drugs uncontrollably to create good music. Artistes will always find someone around to tell them that it is okay that they drank too much to get on stage.

The downside is that those people are either using such artists to get a temporary bit of excitement only to abandon them to their chaos as they return to their stable lives and families, or they are equally out of control and will bring you down further with them.

Here is a sound warning; know who really cares about you and listen to them, even if you don’t like it! Another method is to keep your communal areas, including the bus/van, hotel rooms, etc, alcohol/drug free zones. The same goes for studios and practice spaces. Tackling substance abuse is always a process, and for a musician, the road is absolutely littered with pitfalls and temptations.

Tripping up is normal and expected but it does not translate into failure. Get help working through the process. The support of your friends and family is crucial, but look outside of that circle for advice as well. You can also ask around in the music community to find out what has helped other musicians.

The deaths of DJ Olu and Chime might not change anything in this culture. If anything, many drug users would rationalise that they overstepped the boundaries of use and so, overdosed on what should have been ‘beneficial’ on a night out.

Drug use and Nigerian entertainment industry are linked together, each depending on the other in a supply-and-demand relationship. These links are not breaking down anytime soon. Sadly, the only party who might continue to experience any sort of breakdown is the musician.

In your heart!! In your head!! With my mic and my pen!!