Drug use and creativity

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 1, 2008 Ed Cartoon

Today’s Weekend Edition piece discusses how certain creative geniuses may use drugs as a means to communicate and stimulate their creativity. This raises the question: is the use " and often abuse " of substances expected behaviour for artists and creative minds?

For many, drug use is helpful for expressing ideas outside of the norm. Thinking outside of the box and bringing a new perspective to humanity is much of what makes us appreciate art; drugs can help an artist broker ideas and emotions that might have already been in their subconscious. In that respect, drug trips help to explain some of the refreshing work done by famous artists and authors.

However, we have preconceived notions of “the tortured artist” " someone unstable who uses drugs as a vice or a crutch to ease pain and misery. This is, of course, not always the case.

Different artists create their work in different ways and every artist has their own strategy to kickstart creativity. Whether it is taking an inspiring vacation, working in the same locale, wearing the same lucky housecoat or smoking a bowl, artists will get the creative juices flowing one way or another.

Artists that have a tendency to abuse drugs are also likely to come from more interesting or painful backgrounds. As such, they already have profound life experiences to draw from when creating their work.

Also, the effect of drugs on creativity may be slightly overblown. When regarding anecdotes from drug users, one must remember they overrate the drug’s effect because the substances tend to make the user think they are smarter or more ingenious than they really are. For instance, stoners probably think they are having an elaborate philosophical discussion when in reality they are laughing about juvenile things and attempting to eat soup with a fork.

The negative impact of drug use must also be considered when using drugs as a creative fuel. Depending on one’s willpower and the strength of the drug, its use often leads to at best a vice or at worst, a crippling addition. Drugs have cut short the careers of many artists, musicians and writers; the dependency limits what these geniuses’ body of work could have been.

So while drug use can enhance one’s creative flair, drug abuse is never a good thing.

Ultimately, using drugs when tackling creative work could be more about focusing. While not as extreme as cocaine or amphetamine use, some people may have a couple beers or glasses of wine when tackling an essay, a short story or a song.

In any scenario, the best work will be produced when the artist has a high comfort level and level of confidence. However that is attained " be it through setting, alcohol or drugs " it is a worthwhile boost for the artist.

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