Peaches Geldof, Amy Winehouse, Philip Seymour Hoffman – three incredibly creative people who died at the hands of drug overdose. But why? What is it about drugs and alcohol that seem to attract artists of all kinds? Why are so many creative people linked to drug use?
Throughout history there have been many famously creative individuals linked to substance abuse of some sort. For example, author Ernest Hemingway was a noted alcoholic for most of his adult life. Other notable substance abusers include Beethoven, actress Edie Falco, actor Johnny Depp, and late comedian Robin Williams.
Some suggest that creative people link drugs and alcohol to their creativity. Others say that any supposed link is not real; it is just a crutch to be leaned on when those in the arts world realise they have a problem that cannot be overcome. Maybe there is a link between certain substances and creativity, maybe there isn’t.
The Psychedelic 60s
History is replete with individuals involved in the arts who used alcohol and drugs. However, things took a decidedly different turn in the 1960s, thanks to research conducted by psychologist and author Timothy Leary. It was Leary who brought psychedelic drugs into the mainstream under the guise of potential physical and psychological benefits.
In his book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Leary wrote:
Of course, the drug dose does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key — it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures. The nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting.
The point Leary was making here is that psychoactive drugs free the mind from the normal constraints that guard its activity. In so doing, Leary asserted that there were other states of consciousness that could only be achieved through drug use. It was his revolutionary ideas that opened the door to socially acceptable drug use in the 1960s and 70s. The world has not looked back since.
Perhaps it is the ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll’ revolution of Leary’s day that has resulted in such widespread drinking and drug use among the arts crowd. Had his work not become so widely popular, perhaps there would be fewer Philip Seymour Hoffmans and Peaches Geldofs whose lives end so tragically.
Sobriety Brings Truth
It is easy for those of us who have never struggled with substance abuse to look from the outside and see how destructive drinking and drugs are. Nevertheless, it is nearly impossible for the substance abuser to recognise it him or herself. As such, it is amazing what happens when one becomes sober. Life suddenly becomes much clearer without the haze of drugs or alcohol clouding one’s judgement.
For every star who claims drink and drugs aid creativity, another has come clean and recognised the truth of drug addiction. Even Robin Williams, prior to his tragic demise, spoke the truth about alcoholism and drug use during periods of sobriety. His comedic brilliance aside, Williams recognised that drug and alcohol would be his downfall if he failed to achieve abstinence. Unfortunately, he was right.
Those of us at Addiction Helper know first-hand the destruction drugs and alcohol wreak on individuals and their families. We urge you not to fall for the lie that you need addictive substances in order to be creative. You do not. Moreover, even if drugs and alcohol open your mind to some extent, as Timothy Leary claimed, the eventual payback is most certainly hell. It is not worth it.