Substance Abuse in “Under the Bridge”

Substance abuse has been a serious issue for society for many years, and various artists or poets used this theme to warn people about the dangers of these habits. Likewise, social scientists tried to determine the influences that prompt people to try drugs and become addicted. This paper will discuss the lyrics of “Under the Bridge” and the article “Psychosocial Functioning Among College Students Who Misuse Stimulants Versus Other Drugs” to evaluate the problem of substance abuse among college students.

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“Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chilly Peppers is a song about addiction, which the band released in 1991 (Red Hot Chili Peppers). The theme of this work is substance abuse struggles, inspired by the writer and singer’s own experience with drugs. Red Hot Chilly Peppers sign about the social isolation of an individual due to his addiction to narcotic substances in a social environment where most people are addicts. The issue that Kiedis reflects on in this lyric is that because he was sober, he felt that he no longer had something in common with his bandmates, who continued to use drugs (Red Hot Chili Peppers). From a sociological perspective, this is a reference group problem because Kiedis lived and worked in an environment where substance abuse was normalized.

A reference group is a way of internalizing particular norms of behavior, such as determining whether using drugs of any kind is normal or problematic (O’Brien, 55). Due to the fact that other musicians around Kiedis perceived drugs of different kinds as a norm, his efforts to remain sober was seen as abnormal.

Notably, in this song, Kiedis contrasts two issues, which are the feeling of alienation and not wanting to return to using drugs, which is evident in these lines: “I don’t ever wanna feel Like I did that day” and “Sometimes I feel like my only friend” (Red Hot Chili Peppers). From a social science perspective, the second part of the lyrics shows a reason why people may choose to try drugs and continue using them since an alternative is an alienation from friends. In Kiedis’s case, he decided to be sober despite having to face the negative social impacts of this. Hence, “Under the Bridge” was chosen for this analysis because it shows the different personal and social factors of substance abuse.

Sociology approaches the problem of substance abuse as an issue linked to the social structures, such as the environment, interactions, culture, bonds between people in a community, and other factors. Substance abuse is the use of any type of drug in excess, which harms the well-being of an individual (O’Brien 15). Substance abuse is an issue that persists within different social groups, including musicians, as shown by “Under the Bridge” and college students. In the article “Psychosocial Functioning Among College Students Who Misuse Stimulants Versus Other Drugs,” the authors argue that students often misuse medication to stay concentrated (Cole and Hussong 106290). Moreover, this is perceived as normal behavior because students use prescription medication to study for exams, enhance their concentration, and be able to work for longer hours.

College students habitually use prescription stimulants for non-medical purposes. Moreover, according to Cole and Hussong, this delinquent behavior is linked to “is linked with the use of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol, and hard drugs” (106290). Hence, the acceptance of drug misuse among college students increases the risk of these individuals developing an addiction to other drugs. Arguably, this environment prompts college students to try stimulant drugs because it is part of the college culture and is not seen as deviant. However, the consequences of this are serious since misuse of medication may lead to students trying other types of drugs.

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This is deviant behavior, which is something that is against the social norms and the way the majority of people behave. Moreover, O’Brien argues that deviant subcultures teach students norms such as perceiving alcohol as a norm, are a social control on a cultural level (57). This term refers to the norms of behavior that are shaped by culture and form the basis of expectations about one’s actions (O’Brien 57). In the context of the discussed topic, substance abuse is deviant behavior. However, it became a norm and part of the culture for some social groups.

Considering the themes in the Red Hot Chilly Pepper’s song, the issue of peer influence should be discussed as well. This term can be defined as pressure to do something that one’s peers do to fit in and feel accepted (O’Brien 60). The lyrics of the song and the history behind it show that the songwriter struggled with drugs because they were commonplace in his environment (Red Hot Chilli Pepper). Moreover, as was discussed, he felt lonely after becoming sober because he no longer had the feeling that he was a part of his group. After all, other bandmates continued to smoke marijuana. This example illustrates the problem of peer influences and pressure perfectly since people may feel that they have to take certain substances to fit into a social group.

From the perspective of functionalism, drug abuse performs several utilitarian functions, such as positive emotions to the users, illegal income for the sellers, jobs for the criminal justice system, among others. However, drug abuse makes society dysfunctional because it often leads to addiction, when a person has little control over themselves and their desires or behaviors. Similarly, the abuse of prescription medication by college students serves a functional purpose because it allows them to keep up with their studies. However, it also normalizes the use of pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes.

I feel disturbed by the number of people that abuse alcohol or even drugs around me, especially in college, where alcohol is a must for parties. I think that people use this substance to deal with pressure and personal problems, and as a society, we should focus more on supporting each other in ways that do not involve the use of drugs. Moreover, although “Under the Bridge” is about drugs such as cocaine or marihuana, I think that the acceptance of alcohol as a regular part of social life is harmful to society. I am disturbed by this because the culture of viewing alcohol or prescription medication as an integral part of college life predisposes students to substance abuse.

In summary, this paper discusses the issue of substance abuse on college campuses and among other social groups and, in particular, the prevalence of drug addiction among students. The song “Under the Bridge” discloses the theme of substance abuse, while the article by Cole and Husson discusses the abuse of medication by college students. In both cases, the environment and peers normalize the culture of substance abuse, making it challenging to avoid addiction.

Works Cited

Cole, Veronica T., and Andrea M. Hussong. “Psychosocial Functioning Among College Students Who Misuse Stimulants Versus Other Drugs.” Addictive Behaviors, vol. 105, 2020, p. 106290.

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O’Brien, Patrick. Sociological Perspectives on Substance Use and College Life. Patrick K. O’Brien, 2019.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers. “Under Bridge.” Genius. Web.

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