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Why are Creative People More Likely to Suffer from Addiction?

Friedrich Nietzsche may have been onto something when he said, “For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.” The connection between artists and drug addiction may not be unfounded. Recent research into the link between creativity and drug use has shown that creative people may be more susceptible to addiction and alcoholism.

It’s easy to look at the infamous “27 Club”—Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and countless others—and assume that the link between creativity and addiction is quite direct. However, in David Biello’s 2011 Scientific American interview with neuroscientist David Lidens of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Lidens explains, “No. I think the link is not between creativity and addiction per se. There is a link between addiction and things which are a prerequisite for creativity…. We know that 40 percent of a predisposition to addiction is genetically determined, via studies on heritability in families and twins. There’s no single addiction gene. We don’t even know all the genes involved in conferring addiction risk. But the ones we do know have to do with the signaling of the neurotransmitter dopamine for pleasure and reward.”

Lidens goes on to explain that creative people may suffer from low-functioning dopamine systems, meaning they do not feel pleasure as strongly, which causes them to engage in more “risk-taking, novelty-seeking and compulsive” behavior. These behavioral aspects may make an individual more likely to engage in creative acts.

There may also be a psychological link between creativity and bad behavior that causes creative individuals to be more susceptible to using drugs and alcohol. Dr. Galen Guengerich, in a 2014 Psychology Today article entitled Why Creativity is Risky Business, points to research by Shelley Carson in her book The Unleashed Mind: Why Creative People are Eccentric: “Highly creative people, it turns out, break through the usual constraints and let in a lot more of the available information, and thus they need to process and organize this increased information flow in untypical ways. The term for this trait, Carson explains, is cognitive disinhibition, which Carson describes as ‘the failure to ignore information that is irrelevant to current goals or to survival.’ This ability to look at the world differently—to think outside the box—can also pose ethical hazards, which is where creativity’s real risks lie. Looking at the world differently includes looking at rules differently.”

Jim Morrison famously explained his willingness to take risks for his creativity when he said, “I believe in a long, prolonged, derangements of the senses in order to obtain the unknown.” Fortunately, the assumption that intoxication and derangement are necessary for creativity is false. The prerequisites for creativity described by Lidens do not require one to engage in alcohol or drug use, it simply makes creative people more likely to fall into the dangerous trap of addiction.

Your life doesn’t have to be held back by the chains of addiction. You can make the decision to seek help now and embark upon the rewarding journey of recovery. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, is staffed with caring professionals who understands the toll addiction can take on the mind, body, and spirit, and are ready to address all the aspects of substance abuse to bring clients to a state of wholeness that supports long-term sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431