Illicit drug use has appeared in popular media, and the use of methamphetamine is no exception. Meth use has made its fair share of appearances in music throughout the years. Meth is talked about by singers in diverse musical genres, from country music to metal. In this way, the appearance of meth in popular music closely tracks the widespread use of meth by individuals of all social and demographic backgrounds. In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 songs that are primarily about meth. Some of these songs you may have heard before, but never realized they were about meth use. We’ll look at how the singer approaches the topic of meth, and how this perspective reflects the reality of meth use in the United States.
This song by Primus was released in 1994, which by some would be considered early on in the rise of meth as a popular substance of abuse. The song hearkens back to a time during the 1980s when the use of meth was predominantly the domain of blue-collar Caucasian males. Meth use rates were high among truck drivers, construction workers, and other blue-collar workers in industries where productivity was emphasized.
The song chorus contains a recognition of the importance of these industries to our modern world and also highlights the fact that these individuals are “beloved” and the “backbone” of the town. Also, keep in mind that the song was written about a time where industries that have since been automated and streamlined were still heavily reliant on unskilled labor. The song notes the downside of meth use by these individuals by noting that “the flame that burns twice as bright burns only half as long”, recognizing the huge negative impact on health and lifespan that meth use carries with it.
The meaning of this song isn’t a secret, but it may have escaped your notice if you listen to it on the radio. In some ways, “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind has become the most recognizable song about meth use. For some audiences, this has escaped notice due to the censoring of the versions on the radio, where specific references to crystal meth were scrubbed out. The song centrally revolves around a discussion about sex and drugs, specifically crystal meth.
“Semi-Charmed Life” deals with issues surrounding the use of crystal meth, including the fact that users will repeatedly take the drug over the course of several days or weeks. The vocals highlight the use of crystal meth as a form of escape from the world the character in the song is living in. The main protagonist uses crystal meth to return to a memory of a time in the past and repeatedly laments his inability to do so. As the song progresses, the true nature of the negative effects of crystal meth on his life become apparent.
The song starts off with a recognition of the widespread use of methamphetamine, particularly across the Midwest and the southern United States. Each section of the song refers to some negative aspect of meth use. The first section speaks to its widespread impact and the resulting child neglect and destruction of families that accompany its use. The second section notes that the economic effect of methamphetamine, particularly the widespread production and sale of the substance in areas where there aren’t alternative forms of income. The final section notes the isolation that comes alongside persistent meth abuse and the destruction of trust between users of meth and those around them.
Throughout the song, the refrain charts the course of a methamphetamine addiction. The “hurricane” that comes when it is first used, followed by a series of negative outcomes including lost employment, homelessness, and insomnia.
Bruce Springsteen’s “Sinaloa Cowboys” is a surprising ballad about the opportunity and risks that come along with the production of methamphetamine. The title refers to individuals who produce meth for the Sinaloa Cartel. The song tracks two individuals who migrate illegally into the United States and begin working in California’s San Joaquin Valley as migrant laborers. The journey is started as a way to create new opportunities for themselves. After some time, they are offered a lucrative opportunity to produce meth. They can make vastly more money making meth, but it carries along with it significant risks. The song outlines the many risks that are associated with how meth is produced, including caustic chemicals and the risk of explosions.
The lyrics of “Geek Stink Breath” can almost be read as a roadmap for the negative impacts of methamphetamine use. The song’s title is a reference to the bad breath that is associated with heavy meth users. The song discusses how meth is resulting in rotten teeth, scabs, and an irregular heartbeat. The lyrics also suggest that while at first meth use was an active choice, at a certain point there was a loss of control. As a whole, the song is a depressing portrait of a life affected by crystal meth, but with no plans of necessarily escaping that life. In a way, the lyrics denote an individual who is resigned to the fact that these symptoms of addiction to meth aren’t going away.
The Dock Ellis Band’s song “Crystal Meth” has a jaunty sound that belies its dark content. The song relates the story of an individual who has turned to cooking crystal meth as a means to make more money. Although the main character in the song states that they love the smell of meth cooking, they also note that the smell of meth is constantly on their breath. Throughout the song are small references to the dangers of producing methamphetamine, including the pervasive risk of explosion that is so common with meth labs.
The metal band Korn’s “Helmet in the Bush” is a song that you may not have realized was about meth use. According to their own account, the members of Korn used meth throughout the time they recorded their first album, which included this song. The title of the song is a crude reference to the effects that meth use has on male genitalia, specifically the retraction of the penis due to excessive stimulants. Ignoring this reference, the song tracks the difficulty the singer has in kicking his meth habit. The lyrics take on a pleading tone as the song progresses, noting how the singer wants to quit but can’t find his way out of his addiction.
You might think that Green Day’s “Brain Stew” is a song about insomnia and drug use. If so, you’d be right. Specifically, the song is about the use of methamphetamine, which is a common theme for the entire Insomnia album. The singer notes that his mouth is dry, his face is numb, and he’s “spun out” in his room late at night not able to sleep. The term “spun out” is commonly used to refer to being under the effects of meth, but this may have slipped past the notice of many who heard the song on the radio.
“Brain Stew” highlights the negative mental and physical effects that come along with meth binges. Meth is commonly binged, resulting in users staying alert and awake through one or more days. The stimulant effects of meth keep sleep at bay, even when the user may wish they could sleep. Alongside this, they may suffer psychological effects including hallucinations.
Unlike many of the songs we have looked at so far, Method Man’s “The Meth Lab” comes across as a drug dealer’s fantasy of what it’s like to run a meth lab. The song doesn’t grapple with the downsides of producing or using meth but rather is told from the perspective of the individual selling meth. Although the song itself is celebratory, it does bring up something that is worth considering. This is the fact that meth can be produced with little technical knowledge and with ingredients that are relatively easy to access. In addition to this, meth is cheap to produce, and production can occur in any number of environments. This makes combating meth from a policing perspective very difficult, as demand remains high and the production of meth carries with it the promise of a lucrative return.
By the artist’s own admission, this song was written after a 3-day meth binge and is inspired by his difficulty in battling his addiction. The song doesn’t explicitly mention crystal meth anywhere in the lyrics. However, the song does offer a haunting glimpse into a battle with meth addiction from the addict’s perspective. The song tracks his interaction with other meth users, referred to as “rebel angels” and “steel-eyed vampires”, and also hints at the erosion of dependability and trust that comes along with extended meth addiction.
Methamphetamine use is widespread in the United States, with a 2012 survey finding 1.2 million people in the United States using meth. The popularity of meth comes alongside a recognition of the destruction that widespread meth use brings, particularly to families and communities. Many of the songs we looked at in this article carry a recognition of the personal struggle of the singer with the drug, and the destruction the drug has wrought on their life. Don’t ignore the signs of meth addiction in yourself or in others. As many of the songs note, although meth can bring euphoria and pleasure at first, it will inevitably result in profound physical and emotional deterioration over time. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to meth, get in touch with the professionals at Above it All to discuss recovery options.