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How Drugs and Addiction Impact Creativity

Addiction to drugs can impact a person’s creativity because it impairs the normal function of this incredibly complex organ. Drugs and addiction can interfere with the way in which different areas of the brain communicate with each other and how those signals are sent to other parts of your body.

How Drugs and Addiction Impact Creativity
image from Max Pixel

What are Drugs? 

Drugs are synthetic chemicals that attach themselves to neurotransmitters which can make the brain’s receptors think they’re receiving a signal from a “normal” cell.  Addiction happens when the body gets used to receiving larger than normal amounts of information and the entire body is affected, including a person’s creativity.

How the Brain Responds to Drugs

Taking drugs could be described as feeling rewarded, on steroids. Most of these substances affect the pleasure centers of the brain and the body produces less dopamine, which results in a reduction of reception in the rewards system. The addict’s brain function is altered, and they need more and more of the drug to feel any kind of pleasurable feeling.  
Many creative people, such as artists, writers, and actors, suffer from drug addiction. Sometimes they believe this helps their juices flow more freely and people like prolific horror writer Stephen King, confessed he was terrified that quitting alcohol would affect his ability to write. His drinking habit almost killed him.
It is not clear why the movie and music industries are plagued by drug and alcohol addiction. Many experts believe that creative personalities are more prone to become addicted and there have been many deaths of famous stars, who died too soon due to drug overdoses.

Why are Creative People Addicted to Drugs?

According to psychology researchers, there appears to be a link between mental illness – bipolar disorders and depression, specifically – and creativity. In some cases, mental illness can lead to drug or alcohol abuse. Drug abuse among extremely creative people has been happening for centuries and some experts believe people who are sensible to their surroundings, such as artists, are also affected by depression.
Being creative doesn’t necessarily translate into getting addicted to drugs, but there is certainly a large number of examples of very creative minds being tortured by drug addiction. Having what some call an “addictive personality” which includes about 10 to 15-percent of the U.S. population, according to Psychology Today, means that certain individuals do not know how to stop, while others, who never become addicts, are not affected in the same way.
Despite the efforts to combat this epidemic, there are still many aspects of drug addiction that are not understood, and researchers are always trying to determine why some people get addicted and others don’t, while trying a drug for one time. The brain is severely affected when abusing drugs and other substances such as alcohol, since its effects impact the creative areas of the mind. However, many famous pieces of art have been created while its author is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It could be because drugs enhance experiences, and this can affect the creative process for certain people.
In one study, famous cartoonist Robert Crumbs, showed researchers that using LSD changed the style of his cartoon. There are many such examples about why famous creative people are more prone to drug addiction and how it affects their craft. This should not be confused with a belief that using drugs will make someone creative. Researchers believe the effect of drugs on the brain make the creative mind less inhibited and that is reflected in the end song, art piece, or movie. While these are interesting studies, some methodology problems have been identified, such as the small sample sizes which makes them less representative of the general population.

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