You’re Not Alone

If you or a loved one is abusing drugs, there's help

Volume 114, No. 9September, 2014

Siena Shundi, LCSW-R
Siena Shundi, LCSW-R

Siena Shundi, LCSW-R

Do you know someone who’s a user? Research estimates that substance abuse is common in about 10 percent of the general population. But the percentage is much higher in the music industry. Musicians are particularly at risk for substance abuse because of occupational hazards. We play in bars and clubs, experience the stress of life on the road, and have easy access to drugs and alcohol. Add to this a genetic predisposition to addiction that some of us have – or any history of trauma – and it’s a lethal trigger for addiction.

We all hear about celebrities who fall prey to addiction. Some check into rehab and conquer their demons. Others have relapses that end in overdose or suicide. How is it that even when celebrities have all the financial resources and support at their disposal, they can still fall victim to the dangers of the illness? Many recovering addicts would say that treatment and recovery is lifelong – that you are always one drink or one drug away from relapse. Neuroscientists are telling us that chronic substance abuse changes the brain. Substance abusers can develop an underlying depression that makes it feel like the pain of the illness will never stop. This is why getting help is so incredibly essential – you the need the help of another brain to get to a healthier place!

If you are suffering or if your loved one has a substance abuse problem, you are not alone. Many of us have been down this road and are willing to share our experience. Education is part of the solution. There are friends to lean on and professionals to guide you. Substance abuse is usually a “system problem” where everyone in the system needs help (i.e. family, friends, and sometimes employers and co-workers). Here at MAP, we provide free screenings, assessments and referrals for Local 802 members and their families. We also have resources to help you get insurance or financial assistance for treatment if you qualify. Call (212) 397-4802. We’re here Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:30 to 5.

Remember that recovery is a process, rather than an event. There is no quick fix. Addiction did not happen overnight and in most cases neither does recovery. Patience, persistence, compassion and consistency are the ingredients to health.


MYTH: One can overcome addiction with willpower. You can stop using drugs if you really want to.

TRUTH: Chronic exposure to drugs and alcohol changes the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. Changes in the brain make it incredibly difficult to stop.

MYTH: Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better.

TRUTH: The reality is the recovery can start at any time – and the earlier the better. The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes, and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait until an addict has lost it all to intervene.

MYTH: Addiction is a disease with no cure.

TRUTH: Most substance abuse experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn’t mean you’re a powerless victim. Many of the brain changes that result from addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise and other treatments.

MYTH: Someone has to want to get help – you can’t force someone into treatment.

TRUTH: Treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary. Addicts who are pressured into treatment by their employers, their families, or even the law are just as likely to benefit compared to those who choose to enter treatment on their own. Often, as they sober up and their cognition improves, addicts become willing partners in their recovery.

MYTH: If treatment didn’t work, there’s no point in trying again.

TRUTH: Recovery from drug addiction is a long process that often involves revolving setbacks. Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed or that you’re hopeless. It’s just a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach.


It is essential to look for trends in actions, attitude, and appearance. Warning signs typically show up in several areas of a person’s life. The following list isn’t meant to diagnose – only a professional can do that.

  • Missing gigs, showing up late. Being late to the studio, not knowing parts.
  • Fighting with bandmates. Hiring and firing of management. Band breakups.
  • Passing out. Hiding drinking or drug use. Keeping track of usage.
  • Driving under the influence.
  • Increased tolerance to drugs and alcohol. Arrests associated with drinking or drug use.
  • Switching chemicals in order to control use. Significant weight loss or weight gain.
  • Depression and wondering if life is worth living.
  • Morning “shakes” and finding that it helps to have a little drink.
  • Using drugs and alcohol to get through gigs.
  • Major financial problems resulting from drug or alcohol use. Loss of motivation to play music.
  • Not “feeling” the music anymore.
  • Deterioration of hygiene or appearance. Using drugs and alcohol in response to pressure, disappointments or challenges. Inability to control the amount of use.
  • Mood swings, including anger, sadness, remorse. Blackouts or the inability to remember events when drinking or using. Denying there is a problem.
  • Promising that they will cut down on alcohol or drugs. Borrowing money and not paying it back. Family history of addiction.
  • Increased isolation from family and friends. Being late or not showing up for special events.
  • Behavior and extreme mood changes. Becoming irritated when family or friends try to discuss usage.
  • Avoiding family and friends when using. Disappearing for days at a time. Lies and cover ups to friends and family.