One Direction’s Liam Payne Discusses How Industry Pressure Led Him to Start Drinking Early

Liam Payne from One Direction Discusses How Career-Related Stress Led to Early Alcohol Abuse

Ever since his band’s musical career took off after their fame from the X-Factor when he was 14, the music industry is all One Direction’s Liam Payne has known. In a recent interview with Men’s Health Australia, Payne discusses how he coped with some of the toxic moments using by using alcohol when he was on tour…and he’s not alone. The pressure that surrounds young musicians in the music industry can take a toll on their mental health, and a report from Record Union shows that some young artists are self-medicating with alcohol. Liam Payne was no exception, even at a young age.

Liam Payne expressed that career-related stress caused him to drink at a younger age. “When you’re doing hundreds and hundreds of (concerts), and it’s the same 22 songs at the same time every single day, even if you’re not happy, you’ve got to go out there.” Though the band was very successful, he claimed that, at times, it got a bit toxic. The success of One Direction has been compared to The Beatles, with four chart-topping albums and similarly successful solo runs for a few of the members. Liam claims that separating from the group was for his wellbeing.

Beyond Liam Payne: A Common Music Industry Problem

Like Liam, many young artists deal with their mental health issues by self-medicating with alcohol and/ or other substances. Record Union conducted a survey on independent musicians and revealed that the 18-25-year-old demographic reported having the most mental health-related issues stemming from their career. Of those that report having issues, 51 percent claimed to have self-medicated using alcohol. Some record labels are becoming more mindful of the issue and are starting to assist artists with their mental health-related illnesses by offering grants to seek treatment.

Recently deceased artist Mac Miller struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol at a young age. After his passing, MusiCares, the philanthropic organization under the Recording Academy, started a program to help young artists with their mental health-related issues. Other artists are beginning to speak up about this as well. After being honored at a MusiCares concert for Recovery, Macklemore referenced addiction and mental health issues, saying, “I’m tired of watching people die from this disease.” MusiCares announced, at the concert, the Mac Miller Legacy Fund that will help young adults dealing with substance abuse. Macklemore, a proud recovering alcoholic with 29 years sober, paid tribute to Mac Miller after the announcement of the legacy fund. Organizations like MusiCares are increasing their efforts to assist young musicians in seeking treatment or therapy, hoping to address it early in their careers.

The Path to Addiction Can Start Early

Drinking at an early age is associated with the development of an alcohol use disorder. Reports have shown that underage drinking constitutes for more than 10 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States, and 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by underage youth is in the form of binge drinking. Teenagers are more likely to abuse alcohol than adults, and research is suggesting it’s due to how the human brain develops. Liam, like most other musicians, used alcohol to alleviate stress from his career and wanted out of that toxic environment.

The stress that the music industry can produce on young artists can have detrimental effects on their mental health. Liam had to sacrifice his mental health sometimes to put on a show, which inevitably caused him to turn to alcohol. “It’s almost like putting the Disney costume on before you step up on stage and underneath the Disney costume, I was pissed quite a lot of the time because there was no other way to get your head around what was going on.”

After taking time off from the band, he spent more time with his two-year-old son, Bear and started to work on his mental health. After taking some time off, he started his solo career with a chart-topping single in 2017. His single “Strip That Down for Me” included a lyric: “Used to be in OneD, that’s not me” in reference to him not being genuine to himself. He is now taking control of his life, a feeling he never felt while being a part of One Direction.