I did volunteer work at a local homeless shelter. Many of the people who are homeless suffer from an addiction disorder. One of the people I got to know and befriend there, Steve, was one of these individuals. Steve was a highly talented guitarist who had been the road to success as a recording artist before he became addicted to heroin. I asked him why he’d ever resorted to Heroin. He said the drug helped him to ascend to another level musically. Sadly, he believed the myth.
He had hit rock bottom but was in recovery and picking up local gigs here and there on his way to a comeback. That was until he went back home to his old stomping grounds for a weekend. The story goes Steve met up with some old friends who were still using. The tolerance level Steve had built up over the years was all gone after detox and months of recovery. The fentanyl-laced heroin they shared with him to celebrate his homecoming was too much for his system. The fentanyl cost was the life of a talented young artist.
A Deadly Fallacy.
Steve was not the first creative person I’ve met who believed in addiction fuels creativity. The myth is long-held and continues to be nurtured in some artistic communities. It persists for various reasons. In some cases, talented individuals and buy into a sort of Super-Saiyan mindset, believe they are different from non-talented people, and the standards for conventional taboos and restrictions don’t apply to them.
Some think they are naturally more liberated than other people and narcotics are just a simple part of their scene. Depending on their field, narcotics can even carry a certain social cachet. Other artists come from a troubled past that they try to self-medicate away. Narcotics are like old friends who help them through rough situations and keep them focused on their art.
Some artists develop addictions while developing their talent and end up with addiction disorder en route to their success. There is no truth to addiction fueling creativity. Instead, it destroys artists and cuts short the gifts they bring society.
There are other less dangerous theories on what fuels creativity. For instance, it may be a genetic trait. Research is being done to determine if neurobiological constructs influence creativity. This could explain acting dynasties like the Barrymores or artistic families like the Wyants.
A problem with buying into the myth that narcotics fuel creativity is some talented people reach the height of success while they have an addiction. This may make them draw the false correlation between their creative success and addiction. They may fear quitting the substance may negatively impact their ability to perform at their current level.
What Fuels Creativity?
Since many creative people are highly intelligent individuals there is some speculation that instead of believing the myth they are only pretending to believe it to justify risky or unacceptable behavior to themselves. This is an opinion of the novelist, Stephen King, who is a person in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. He says that in his case it was a known illusion he used to explain obvious self-destructive behavior. Rather than drawing the hasty conclusion that addiction fuels creativity. It’s a good idea to take a look at certain characteristics some people who suffer from addiction disorder share.
People who have a high IQ. Despite stereotypes associated with addiction, many highly intelligent people suffer from Addiction Disorder.
Emotionally sensitive individuals like those who suffer mood swings and deal with stress, depression, and anxiety are also highly susceptible to addiction disorders.
People who suffer from mental illness. People who suffer from mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are vulnerable to an addiction disorder. Some of these people have undiagnosed conditions and attempt to mask troublesome symptoms by self-medicating,
Because many creative people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, research is being done to see if a link can be found. Although long speculated, there is no concrete, empirical evidence supported by studies that conclude a link. Currently, studies are being conducted to see if a connection can be drawn between creativity and addition, Bipolar and Depressive personality disorders.
While there are many advocates supporting the theory that addiction fuels creativity, there are fewer people willing to discuss how addiction has cut short the talent of many artists. Even viewing it from a common sense standpoint isn’t it hard not to see why substances that impair one’s ability to operate a vehicle or work a mundane job would have a similar effect on creative artists in music, art, literature, and dance. Why do none of these advocates remember how the brilliant Amy Winehouse was literally booed off the stage during one of her final concerts because she couldn’t perform due to her addiction? The destruction of artistic talent is the true fentanyl cost. In truth, addiction only gets in the way of creativity.
Cognitive Disinhibition & Creativity.
A factor that puts creative people at risk for addiction disorders is a tendency to view life thinking outside the box and a tendency to take risks. Creatives break free of the constraints that bind most people then process and create in atypical ways. They can grasp and process data other people miss. This ability is known as a cognitive disinhibition.
People who have cognitive distribution don’t ignore the many minutes and seemingly inconsequential things most of us do. Everyone varies in their amounts of natural inhibition, or the filtering of the extraneous data we encounter daily. A high level of cognitive disinhibition in creative people allows them to focus inward and exist within their own creative cocoon. There is a fine line between creativity and eccentricity.
Cognitive disinhibition can cause a disregard for inhibitions and increase risk-taking. They sometimes set aside restraint and engage in what other people see as eccentric or unconventional behavior. Consuming narcotics that lead to addiction is an unconventional behavior. This is not an addiction fueling creativity, rather it’s creativity being used as an excuse to engage in poorly thought out, risky behavior. Creative people are often impulsive people and studies have shown impulsivity increases the risk of addiction.
The myth linking narcotics to creativity is a dangerous and hard one to break. It’s true that many creative people have fallen victim to addiction. These were highly talented and creative people who unfortunately fell victim to chronic addiction. The addiction did not cause creativity. Until that myth is finally laid to rest, the danger of creative people falling victim to addiction remains high. During this opiate crisis,fentanyl cost along with heroin, and other opiates and addictions are high for creatives and the rest of society who will lose their brilliant talent to a deadly addiction.