The Creative World and Addiction: Why do They go Hand-In-Hand?

Understanding Drug Addiction Among Artists

It does seem as though creative individuals and addiction are often paired together. There’s no denying that celebrities are much more prone to addiction than others. For one, successful celebrities are able to afford using expensive drugs like cocaine. However, there is a belief that using substances of abuse may actually foster creativity.

Everyone knows the various stories of drug use among popular rock bands. For instance, the Beatles used LSD and marijuana to create several albums. Some would even call their music the best of all time. Authors often use drugs to enhance their thinking and expand their minds while they write. Consider Edgar Allen Poe’s use of opium as he penned some of the best masterpieces in the literary world.

The question is, why is substance abuse necessary among creative people? Is it even necessary? We believe that it’s not, and that it can actually do more harm than good.

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Breaking the Stereotype: Creative People Don’t Need Drugs

Drug addiction among musicians and artists has been a long time problem, and it's actually a problem for many creative people or those who are considered to be entertainers. In fact, history is filled with creative and talented people who had problems with drugs and alcohol. Many of them feel that using substances will provide them with an inspiration to be more productive in their work. Oftentimes, they also feel that without using drugs, they will be unable to perform to the best of their ability.

Many creative individuals, such as artists and musicians, are only medicating their pain when they use drugs. Although the results they experience because of doing that are enough to keep them continuing on with those behaviors.

Creative people and addiction seem to go hand in hand, and there have been a great number of performers have had drug or alcohol issues throughout the years. Consider the following:

  • Beethoven was reported to drink wine as often as he wrote music.
  • Five Nobel Prize winners for Literature were considered alcoholics.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman reports using anything he could get his hands on because he was panicked about his life.
  • Johnny Depp used to get drunk before going to press conferences because he was attempting to not feel anything.
  • Anne Lamott used to get drunk every night from the age of 19 to the age of 22.

The list could go on and on.

What many of these well-known individuals have never realized is the fact that it doesn't require substance use in order to be creative. There are many other ways to stoke creativity without having to turn to drugs and alcohol.

According to the Scientific American, the answer to that question is no. Sometimes creativity and addiction do occur within the same person, but that does not mean that it always has to be that way. Even though a large number of creative people - including actors, musicians, artists and writers - do struggle with addiction, to assume that the two go hand in hand is nothing more than confusing coincidence with cause.

Even so, there are some that believe that in order to be creative, you have to use drugs or alcohol, which is just one reason why so many talented people end up using. Unfortunately, what they're really doing is taking major chances with their lives every single day, but it turns out that most people see creativity as risky.

There are so many addicted artists and musicians in he world today. The list of celebrities that have died because of their drug addictions is long, and it's a list that seems to grow every year. People like Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison had incredible futures ahead of them, and yet, they all succumbed to their addictions. The questions that their deaths provoke include:

  • Is there a link between creativity and addiction?
  • What role do genetics play in drug and alcohol addictions?
  • Do creative people feel that if they stop using drugs or alcohol that their creative abilities will be diminished?
  • How do artists and musicians really feel about their drug use?
  • What is it that promotes this culture of drug and alcohol addiction?

If you're a musician or an artist, perhaps you're dabbling with addiction as well. It may seem as though it's just another part of your busy life. Maybe it's something you do to keep you going each day, or perhaps you use because you feel it gives you the edge that your persona as an artist really needs.

Regardless of the reasons behind your addiction, it can be helpful to know why people in your position are so prone to addiction, and what the statistics generally say about artists and musicians who are unable to stop using.

Addicted Artists and Musicians: Are They at a Higher Risk?

A drug or alcohol addiction is actually a very complicated condition. Addictions affect all types of people of every age, of every background and of all levels of intelligence. There are usually many different factors in play when it comes to the risk of addiction, and some of these include individuals that are:

The Link Between Creativity and Addiction

Young Men and Caucasians: People who are between the ages of 18 and 24 are much more likely to use drugs, and men are more prone to it than women. A recent study concluded that:

  • 15 percent of Native American young people had the highest chance of become addicted to a substance.
  • 9% of whites are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
  • 5% of African Americans have addictions.
  • 5% of Asian Americans have addictions.
  • This is the case even though young African Americans are much more likely to be arrested for drug crimes.

People Suffering with Mental Illness: Those who have depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or any other type of mental illness are usually more prone to addictions than others. The reason for this is because there is a strong desire to self-medicate when you have these issues. The goal is to numb the pain, and it is a cycle that continues on unless something is done to stop it because substances can actually cause the exacerbation of these conditions.

Sensitive Individuals: These people are sensitive to stimulants and the effects of other drugs and alcohol, but they also tend to be negative emotionally. They often experience anger, stress and sadness, which can contribute to addiction.

Children of Substance Abusers: Statistics show that children of parents who are or were drug abusers have as much as a 79% chance that they will abuse substances themselves. This may be because of genetics, but it also might be because of the fact that they have seen that behavior modeled for them.

Individuals with Higher IQs: Research has shown that some of the highest paid professionals in the world have the highest rate of addiction. People tend to think of addicts as being people with low incomes, and that generally isn't the case at all.

You can see how artists and musicians might fit into many of these categories, and that alone makes them more prone to addiction.

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Substance Abuse and Artists and Musicians: The Perception and Statistics

It's very common for artists and musicians to be portrayed as being drug or alcohol addicts. The media frequently exposes illicit behavior when it occurs, and it's possible that this fact only fuels the frequency of addiction within this group of people.

A survey was completed by the University of North Texas to find out more about the perception of addiction among this particular group of people, and what they found was that:


Only 15% of those surveyed claimed that they believed that musicians and artists do not use drugs. The drugs that were thought to be used most often were amphetamines, marijuana and cocaine.


20% of classical musicians reported widespread drug use.


That percentage doubled to 40% for non-classical musicians. Female artists and musicians were considered to be at a much lower risk for addiction than males.

Clearly, the statistics in this survey indicated that drug use is a widespread problem among artists and musicians, and it certainly does not favor one genre of music over another. All types of artists, from country music to hip hop music have serious problems involving drug and alcohol addictions.

Addicted Musicians and Artists: What is the Link Between Creativity and Addiction?

Many experts would say that there really isn't a link between creativity and addiction, but there is a link between addiction and the things that result in creativity. While scientists know that there is some sort of genetic reason for addiction in many cases, there is still much more to learn about it. Even so, the ones they are aware of are inherently related to dopamine and serotonin being released in the brain.

Addicted artists and musicians are those who tend to experience pleasures more weakly than other people, but they are more likely to use larger amounts, and use more often in order to achieve the desired amount. If artists and musicians have low-functioning dopamine systems, they are much more likely to be risk takers and exhibit compulsive behaviors. These characteristics are what is required within someone who is creative, but they are also the characteristics that often lead to addictions.

It's easy to see why creative people have such a higher risk of becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs than others. Quite often, once they're addicted, they find themselves feeling as though they have no other choice but to continue to use.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Among Artists and Musicians: The Risk of Not Using

The CDC indicates that every day in the United States 105 people die of a drug overdose. More than 6,700 people are treated in emergency rooms across the country daily because they misused and abused substances. It's impossible to think that musicians and artists are not aware of these statistics, so why do they continue to use?

The main reason that they continue to use is because the risk of not using alcohol and drugs is simply much too high for them. In short, most addicted artists and musicians feel that using alcohol and drugs simply makes them better at their jobs. This is one of the biggest myths in the industry, but it is also one that is widely held as truth. Many musicians may worry that if they choose to stop using drugs, they won't experience the creativity they need to make new music. Artists may feel that their work will suffer if they're not able to think outside the box when creating.

The pressure that is on them is incredible. Not only do they consistently feel the need to keep their levels of performance up to or above par, but they also experience pressure from inside the industry. Fans are always eager to look for the next best thing that comes along, which means that there is an enormous amount of pressure on artists to deliver. For the most part, they feel that without substances they won't be able to do that.

Stress is also an important factor for artists and musicians who use. They may use one type of substance as a way to stay at the top of their game, and another type of substance so that they can relax and cool down at the end of a show, or even at the end of a typical day. The stress they face is unlike the type of stress that is experienced in other jobs. They typically spend months at a time away from their families, they often have a lot of pressure from their record labels, and they are frequently seeking for ways to impress and amuse their fans to keep them interested and entertained.

For most artists and musicians, drugs and alcohol are not only ways to stay ahead in the industry, but they're also ways to cope with the challenges they face in their everyday lives.

In the world of entertainment, it's much more common to find an artist or a musician that maintains a lifestyle of addiction than it is to find one that doesn't. Their very culture makes it quite easy for them to continue to abuse drugs or alcohol, and it's one that's actually quite forgiving of addictions. A number of factors play into fueling the fire beneath their continued substance use problems.

  • Their Environment- Spending a great deal of time at night around those who are drunk or high on drugs does not make it easier to remain abstinent from substances. This might even be one of the reasons many musicians and artists feel that there is no use in trying to get sober.
  • Their Money- Most entertainers are people of means, and because of their wealth, they are much more able to sustain bad habits than those that aren't. Drug dealers will often target them because they know they can buy a lot at one time.
  • Their ValueArtists and musicians are valuable, and once they gain a following, making a profit from them is the concern of everyone who is associated with them. For this reason, they're always given more permission to live their lives they way they see fit. What would never work in some jobs is often considered to be just fine in their industry.
  • Their Health- It's not necessary to be in good health to be a musician or an artist. They can perform even if they're not at their peaks.
  • The Pressure- Peer pressure is just as real among musicians and artists as it is among high school students. In many cases, not using drugs gets them labeled as not being cool, which some may perceive as being a big problem for their careers.
  • Their Travels- The fact that artists and musicians spend a lot of time away from home, and away from their meaningful relationships often results in them turning to drugs or alcohol to fill the void.

How Drugs Literally Kill Creativity

Addicted celebrities are at a high risk for overdoses or suicide. When an actor, athlete, musician or another type of celebrity is found dead because of a drug overdose or due to an alcohol related death, the news is incredibly tragic. It's often met with such remorse from the general public, as well as from others who knew the individual well. There have been so many well-loved celebrities who have succumbed to their drug addictions over the course of history, and to say that the world is not the same without them would be an understatement. The loss of them carries with it a terrible sting that never truly manages to fade away.

It's important to note that although many celebrity deaths are because of the use of illegal substances, drugs that can lead to death are not always illicit. In addition, overdoses are usually unintentional for most celebrities.

The list of celebrities that have died from drug overdoses is actually quite a long one, and it includes:

  • Prince Rogers Nelson, who died from an accidental Fentanyl overdose at the age of 57.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died from intoxication by mixed drugs (heroin, cocaine, amphetamines) at the age of 46.
  • Joan Rivers, who died from a complication from propofol sedation at the age of 81.
  • Cory Monteith, who died from mixing alcohol and heroin at the age of 31.
  • Chris Kelly, who died from an overdose of heroin and cocaine at the age of 34.
  • Jeff Hannerman, who died from cirrhosis because of alcoholism at the age of 49.
  • Whitney Houston, who died by drowning because of complications from cocaine and heart disease at the age of 48.
  • Derek Boogaard, who died of an accidental alcohol and oxycodone overdose at the age of 28.
  • Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27.
  • Erica Blasberg, who died of asphyxia because of a multiple drug overdose at the age of 25.
  • Andy Irons, who died because of cardiac arrest after mixing drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone) at the age of 32.
  • Michael Jackson, who died of cardiac arrest because of propofol intoxication.
  • Christopher Bowman, who died of a drug overdose involving cocaine, cannabis, alcohol and diazepam at the age of 40.
  • Heath Ledger, who died an accidental death because of combined drug toxicity (oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, etc.) at the age of 28.
  • Scott Charles (Bam Bam Bigelow), who died in an accidental multiple drug overdose at the age of 45.
  • Ike Turner, who died from medical issues complicated because of a cocaine overdose at the age of 76.
  • Eddie Guerrero, who died because of heart complications due to anabolic steroid use at the age of 38.
  • Howie Epstein, who died of a possible heroin overdose at the age of 47.
  • Elisa Bridges, who died of a drug overdose involving heroin, methamphetamines and other drugs at the age of 28.
  • Douglas Glenn Colvin (Dee Dee Ramone), who died from an accidental heroin overdose at the age of 50.
  • John Entwistle, who died from a heart attack that was caused by cocaine at the age of 58.
  • Darrell Porter, who died of an accidental cocaine overdose at the age of 50.
  • Chris Farley, who died of an overdose of morphine, cocaine and possibly other drugs at the age of 33.
  • Kurt Cobain, who died of a gun shot would to the head, but doctors found heroin and diazepam in his body. He died at the age of 27.
  • River Phoenix, who died of a heroin and cocaine over dose at the age of 23.
  • Paul Hayward, who died of a heroin overdose at the age of 38.
  • John Kordic, who died from lung failure because of a drug overdose at the age of 27.
  • John Belushi, who died of an accidental heroin and cocaine overdose at the age of 33.
  • John Simon Ritchie (Sid Vicious), who died of a heroin overdose (suicide) at the age of 21.
  • Keith Moon, who died of a heart arrhythmia (possibly because of too many prescription medications) at the age of 42.
  • Jimi Hendrix, who died from respiratory arrest because of an alcohol and barbiturate overdose at the age of 27.
  • Jim Morrison, who died from heart failure because of a possible heroin and cocaine overdose at the age of 27.
  • Janis Joplin, who died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27.
  • Judy Garland, who died from a barbiturate overdose at the age of 47. There is some uncertainly as to whether or not this was accidental or a suicide.
  • Lenny Bruce, who died of a morphine overdose at the age of 40.
  • Marilyn Monroe, who died of a barbiturate overdose at the age of 36. Her death was a suicide.
  • Billy Holiday, who died from cirrhosis of the liver because of alcoholism at the age of 44.
  • Joseph McCarthy, who died from hepatitis, which was made worse by alcohol, at the age of 48.
  • Tommy Dorsey, who died by choking himself while sleeping at the age of 51. His use of sedatives made him unable to wake up.
  • Hank Williams Sr., who died from heart failure that was possibly related to drugs and alcohol, at the age of 29.
  • Sigmund Freud, who died from a morphine overdose during physician-assisted suicide at the age of 83.

This list is, by no means an exhaustive one, and there have been so many great talents that have been lost because of drug or alcohol overdoses. As you can see, several on this list were ruled to be suicides, (and research shows there a link between suicide and addiction) but there were many on the list that passed away for other reasons.

Sometimes drug overdoses occur simply because someone has taken too much of a particular drug at one time. Those who are considering using cocaine for the first time are often cautioned not to use too much because people have been known to die from cocaine after just one use of this powerful, potent drug. However, more often than not, overdoses occur because the individual has tried to stop using drugs, and then relapsed back into drug use.

When someone has been using drugs, and they try to quit using on their own, their withdrawal symptoms can sometimes cause a lot of issues for them. Withdrawal can become dangerous, and it can result in relapsing for the simple reason that people often can handle them on their own. They will usually go back to using in an effort to get some relief from their symptoms, and as a result, they use too much of the drug. Tolerance levels can drop very quickly once drugs are stopped abruptly, and when a drug addict goes back to using the same amount he or she was previously using, an overdose is a very good possibility.

It's difficult to say what each of the above celebrity's circumstances was. Perhaps some of them were attempting to stop using and then relapsed, or it's possible that they just used too much of their drug(s) of choice.

Creativity and Addiction Mixing Drugs and Alcohol

Creativity and Addiction: The Danger of Mixing Drugs, Medications and Alcohol

Unfortunately, most people don't realize the dangers of mixing various types of drugs with each other. Each drug, medication, or alcoholic drink has different consequences, and they all cause different things within the body. Usually, people will mix them because they've developed a tolerance to the type of drug they're used to taking. Mixing them is an attempt at improving the high that is experienced, or it could an attempt to get a different type of high.

These types of interactions can quickly prove to be deadly, depending on which substances are being mixed together. For example, someone who mixes many different central nervous system depressants with alcohol can end up experiencing depressed breathing that can lead to asphyxiation. Opioid painkillers, sedatives, hypnotics, alcohol and illegal drugs are frequently mixed together to produce a variety of sensations for the user.

This is a very dangerous practice, which is one reason why doctors are so careful to review prescription medications to check for interactions before prescribing new ones. So many deaths could have been prevented if only the users were aware of the consequences of mixing various types of drugs or alcohol together.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse Among Celebrities: Medical Issues That Often Result

There are so many medical consequences that can be caused by drugs and alcohol, and as you can see, many of the celebrities on this list didn't necessarily die from an overdose, but they died because the drugs or alcohol they were consuming caused serious medical issues for them.

Just some of the medical issues that can be caused by the use of substances include:

Usually, people begin using drugs and alcohol without giving the medical consequences a second thought. They may use infrequently at first, with the intent to stop almost as soon as they've started. However, addiction has a way of taking a hold of your entire life, and because celebrities have so many opportunities to use, as well as the means to purchase large amounts of drugs or alcohol, addiction for them is actually fairly commonplace. Usually, finding out that they've been diagnosed with a medical issue related to their drug or alcohol use comes as quite a surprise to them. Unfortunately, even with the best doctors in the world, some diseases or conditions are progressive, and there is often little that can be done, aside from treating them.

Alcohol and Drug Addictions Among Entertainers: Are You Addicted?

Regardless of the reasons behind these terrible losses, the fact remains that the world has already lost so many creative people to drugs and alcohol, and unfortunately, there are sure to be more added in the future.

The fact is that drugs and alcohol do kill creativity. Perhaps you're someone who is creative, and you aspire to do great things for the entertainment world someday. Maybe you're someone who is already very successful, and the last thing you want to do is to end up being another name on this list. No matter what your situation is, please know that it is possible for you to recover from addiction, as long as you have the right kind of support.

Nixing Drugs and Alcohol: Other Ways to Foster Creativity Without Addiction

Using drugs and alcohol as a way to be more creative is actually taking the easy way out. The chemical changes in the brain that occur often do lead to more creative thinking patterns, but that doesn't mean these are the only ways to become creative and come up with new ideas. Instead, you could try some of these ideas to boost your creativity:

  • Try Restricting Yourself: This is an idea that came from  Seuss, who once took a bet that he couldn't create a story using less than fifty words. The result was Green Eggs and Ham, which has gone on to sell more than 200 million copies, and is now the best selling children's book in the world. Restricting yourself forces you to come up with new ideas within boundaries, which is a great way to hone your creative skills.
  • Constrain Your Time: Putting a time limit on something not only gives it more urgency in your mind, but it also forces you to come up with ideas quickly. You won't have to worry about putting something off for another day because of your schedule, or because you're not motivated. Deadlines can be difficult, but they can also work to your advantage.
  • Change Your View of the Project: Regardless of what it is that you need to complete - whether it's a new hit song, or it's a new novel for your publisher - people often get stuck when they're trying to come up with solutions to the various problems they face within a project. Taking a different approach can help. Try looking at the project from your audience's point of view. What do they want to hear/see/read? What inspires them? What are they tired of?
  • Be Prepared: If an idea strikes you at an odd time, are you prepared to take note of it? Do you carry a notebook with you so that you can jot ideas down? Do you record a message to yourself on your phone so that you can go back and listen to it later?
  • Remain Positive: Research has shown that the best creative work is done when people are in a positive frame of mind. If that's a problem for you, then it might be something that's also driving you back to your addiction. You may want to consider getting professional help so that you can get in to a more positive mindset.
  • Allow Daydreaming: You might be thinking that having a wandering mindonly causes you bigger problems because your goal should be to focus. However, that's not really the case at all. As long as you get a project started, you'll be surprised to see how daydreaming can boost your creativity temporarily, and that might be all you need.
  • Focus on Others: Try to avoid thinking about the benefits you'll experience because of your creation. Instead, think about the benefits that others will enjoy because of it. This has been shown to trick the brain (in a sense) into coming up with even better ideas.

The Fear of Rejection Encourages Drug and Alcohol Use Among Creative Individuals

Most likely, you can think of works of art, or books, movies or pieces of music that you would like to emulate. Those individuals are your inspiration. They are what drives you to do what you do, and you long to have the experience of being as successful as they are. However, you can't deny that being afraid of rejection haunts you on a regular basis, and you're not sure how you will ever overcome that fear, except of course, if you medicate it away with drugs or alcohol. When you look at it that way, substances tend to serve two purposes. They calm your fears and they foster your creativity, correct?

What you don't see is the fact that every great creative mind has to face rejection at one point or another. It is destined to occur, and even when you see something as an overnight sensation, there is bound to be a story of rejection behind it. For example, take a look at these famous failures:

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein didn't talk until he was four years old, and he didn't read until he was seven. He was thought to be slow, mentally handicapped and anti-social for most of his life, and yet, he is known today as a genius.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was demoted in rank when he went to war. He also failed at numerous businesses and went bankrupt twice before he became president.

JK Rowling

JK Rowling battled depression after the loss of her mother, and was left as a single mother when she got divorced. It took her years to finish her manuscript, and it was passed over by several publishers, only to be rejected time and time again. Finally, because a publisher's daughter read some of the first book in the Harry Potter series, the book was published, but with the warning that she would never be a children's book author. Today she is one of the best selling authors of all time.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison refused to look at his 1,000 failed attempts at creating the light bulb to be failures. Instead, he insisted that he had only discovered 1,000 things that didn't work.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven was terrible at playing the violin when he was young, and he preferred to spend his time composing. Still, his music teacher insisted that he was too stupid to be a composer.

Stephen King

Stephen King received 30 rejections after he wrote his first book, Carrie, and he was so disgusted that he threw the book away. His wife encouraged him to resubmit it, and today, he is one of the world's best-selling authors.

Choosing Recovery for Addiction: There is a Way Out

Perhaps it seems impossible for you to ever be as creative as you would like to be without the use of drugs and alcohol. Maybe you feel that it's too late for you, and even though there are other ways for you to be creative, you live your life in fear that you'll be stuck in a creative rut if you ever do something different. Or, it's possible that you do see the value in choosing to find better ways to flex your creative muscle.

If that's how you feel, then it's important for you to know that you don't have to be stuck in your addiction, nor should you attempt to stop using on your own. Going to drug and alcohol rehab can help you find the path to recovery that you need.

The Need for Addiction Treatment for Artists and Musicians

Unfortunately, we live in a society where substance abuse is not only accepted among those in the creative world, but it's also celebrated by almost everyone. Special concessions are often made for musicians or artists who get DUIs or have other legal problems because of their addictions, and the country as a whole breathes a sigh of relief when this occurs.

The statistics surrounding musicians and artists with addictions demonstrate the fact that something needs to be done. Far too many have already been lost because they were unable to stop using. This is a serious problem in the entertainment industry, but many people don't recognize the importance of getting help, and they also don't know where to turn.

Here at Northpoint Recovery, we offer a small, private drug and alcohol rehab facility that can provide artists and musicians with the addiction treatment services they need. If you're suffering from an addiction, you don't want to go to a large facility. You want personalized care and a unique treatment plan that takes your needs into account. We can provide that for you, and just as we've been able to offer hope to so many others in your position, that same hope is also available for you.

To learn more about addiction treatment for musicians and artists, please contact us today.

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