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Top 10 Anti-Drug Songs

VO: Matt Campbell
Written by David MacIntyre. The artists behind these songs don’t like the drugs, but the drugs like them. Join as we count down the top 10 anti-drug songs. For this list, we’ve narrowed it down to songs that explicitly condemn drug use, as opposed to songs that either celebrate it or simply talk about it. These songs promote a clean, sober lifestyle through the use of personal experience. Special thanks to our user kenn1987 for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest.

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Script written by David MacIntyre.

Top 10 Anti-Drug Songs

The artists behind these songs don’t like the drugs, but the drugs like them. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down the top 10 anti-drug songs.

For this list, we’ve narrowed it down to songs that explicitly condemn drug use, as opposed to songs that either celebrate it or simply talk about it.

#10: “Iron Horse/Born to Lose” (1977)

This isn’t the only time these metal legends have discussed the dangers of drug abuse in their music, since they talked about heroin addiction in their 1979 song “Dead Men Tell No Tales”. But two years before that, they used this song to talk about both drug addiction, as well as when frontman Lemmy was rooming with the then-president of the Hells Angels, which is the basis for the metaphor of the “iron horse”. Lemmy explores a user dying from a drug addiction by looking at life as a biker in the Hells Angels.

#9: “Night of the Living Baseheads” (1988)
Public Enemy

With lyrics condemning the late ‘80s crack epidemic in the States during the era of Ronald Reagan, this track from this group’s classic debut album is one of the best examples of classic political rap music. More specifically, the song tackles the impact of crack on the African-American community. The song itself is great, but the video is possibly even better, styled like a TV news channel doing a story about the crack epidemic – with a commercial added for good measure.

#8: “Suicide Note, Pt. I and II” (1996)

The pioneers of groove metal have been known for their dark imagery in their music, and these two songs are no exception. Written for the band’s second-last album, these songs talk lyrically about a man on the verge of killing himself thanks in part to addiction to pills and cocaine. They’re pretty powerful songs showcasing Pearl Jam-esque acoustic guitars and vocals in part one and frontman Phil Anselmo’s high-pitched screams in part two.

#7: “That Smell” (1977)
Lynyrd Skynyrd

One of this band’s most well-known tunes, this song talks about a man who abuses drugs to the point where his life is on the line. More specifically, the song is aimed at Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington, whose abuse of drugs and alcohol got to the point where he crashed his new car into a tree and a house. This led to drugs and alcohol being banned from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s tour, and the band fined Rossington for making them postpone their tour.

#6: “Mr. Brownstone” (1987)
Guns n’ Roses

Although the title of the song references a slang name for heroin, it’s most likely the name of a theoretical dealer, as heroin addiction was a problem for the members of this band at an early point in their career. In fact, frontman Axl Rose sings about how the band members would inject themselves with heroin right before shows. Luckily for them – and for us – we find out by the end of the song that Axl has stopped taking heroin cold turkey.

#5: “The Needle and the Damage Done” (1972)
Neil Young

Written about the drug overdose of one of Neil Young’s bandmates in Crazy Horse, who had problems with heroin despite Young trying to save him from his addiction, this song is about the dangerous effects heroin will have on you. A short song that clocks in at just over two minutes, Young has also said the song was inspired by great musicians that people never got to see because of heroin leading to their downfall.

#4: “Under the Bridge” (1992)
Red Hot Chili Peppers

The proverbial bridge in this song is where Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis sings about going to buy and use drugs, as he struggled with the loss of guitarist Hillel Slovak, who also inspired their song “Knock Me Down. Kiedis and Slovak both struggled with heroin addiction, however the frontman came out luckier than his bandmate when Slovak overdosed in 1988. Although it was a departure from their usual funk-heavy rock sound, it almost went to number one on the Billboard charts in the States, and is still a staple on rock radio.

#3: “Hurt” (1995/2003)
Nine Inch Nails/Johnny Cash

The original version by Nine Inch Nails was emotional and extremely personal to begin with, but the Man in Black would take it on nine years later and bring its emotional impact to a whole new level. The song talks about regret as well as drug addiction, which both Trent Reznor and Johnny Cash struggled with. Cash’s already stirring cover would be made even more surreal by its music video, which showed the country music legend frail and clearly on his last legs.

#2: “Master of Puppets” (1986)

Besides having one of the most iconic intros for any metal song ever, this track is also one that talks vividly about drugs controlling you and taking over your life – with those drugs being the proverbial puppet master. The song was inspired by when frontman James Hetfield saw people abusing drugs at a party in San Francisco, and includes lyrics about chopping your “breakfast” on a mirror. Even with its gritty lyrics, it’s gone down as one of the all-time greatest heavy metal songs.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Needle Lies” (1988)

“White Lightning” (1992)
Def Leppard

"The Drugs Don't Work” (1997)
The Verve

“Bulletproof” (1993)

“Monkey on Your Back” (1982)
Aldo Nova

“Just One Fix” (1993)

#1: “The Pusher” (1968)

Although a dealer and a pusher of hard drugs are considered by some people to be one and the same, this song discusses the difference between the two in the clearest way possible. More specifically, frontman John Kay describes the “pusher” as being someone who’s only after your hard-earned cash without caring at all for whether or not the drugs he sells kills you, as opposed to a “dealer”, who can sell you “a lot of sweet dreams.”

Do you agree with our list? Which anti-drug song is your all-time favourite? With new top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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