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Is there a relationship between drugs and creativity?

Is there a relationship between drugs and creativity?

May 18, 2024

The use and abuse of drugs and psychoactive substances has traditionally been related to the ability to create and innovate, to the point that a large number of celebrities from the world of art, music and even science have linked their achievements and creations with the consumption of drugs.

However, the scientific evidence regarding this association is not so clear, the question of if drugs really make us more creative .

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Brain activity, creativity and drug use

Drugs and narcotics are a series of substances consumed with the intention of altering the state of mind, experiencing alternative sensations and in some cases trying to enhance physical and mental performance. However its side effects on the body can be extremely harmful and dangerous.


It is necessary to specify that this article is not intended to encourage or support the use of drugs. But we will try to shed some light on the myths and beliefs related to drug use and the development of creativity.

For this, it is necessary to know what direct effects drugs exert on our brain function and thus be able to discern if they really facilitate creative processes or, on the contrary, inhibit and hinder them.

At a general level, narcotics or drugs, both legal and illegal, cause a series of changes in the body. Its action on the biochemical reactions of the brain stimulate or inhibit neuronal functioning, which has numerous effects both physically and psychologically .


In the case of cannabis, it tends to act on the metabolic processes that regulate mood and pain, among many others. On the other hand cocaine is known to significantly increase the levels of dopamine in the body, generating large amounts of energy but also highly addictive.

As for heroin, it causes a feeling and experience of ecstasy in the person very associated with feelings of extreme happiness , but its effects on respiratory function can be lethal.

Enhance creativity with substances? Maticemos

In summary, regardless of the type of abuse substance that is consumed, it will change the way our brain works. Now, science must establish if these changes occur directly on brain processes related to creativity or if it is a secondary or collateral effect of the pleasurable sensations and ecstasy that these provoke.


Whatever the conclusion, the secondary effects of these can become so nefarious, and even deadly, that it is necessary to stop and think if it is really worth risking.

What do the studies say?

Contrary to what is asserted in some artistic contexts, according to which the consumption of drugs and narcotics significantly increases the creativity of people, a study carried out at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest by the expert in psychology of addiction Zsolt Demetrovics This association is not so simple, considering that there are nuances. The objective of this investigation was to demonstrate if the claim that drugs favor creativity was only a myth or if, on the contrary, there is empirical evidence that supports it.

Demetrovics and his collaborators carried out a systematic review of the articles related to this matter, as a result of which they discovered that there were only 14 empirical studies and 5 case studies in which an attempt was made to respond to the relationship between drugs and creativity. Which is a very small number in relation to the importance of the subject.

A further problem is that most of the empirical research reviewed presented methodological problems such as too small samples of participants, standardized assessment instruments and self-reported data. After a thorough review of these articles, it was found that there was a very general association between creativity and substance use. But none of them managed to provide any kind of substantial proof that drug use directly increased creativity. Therefore, the conclusion reached by Demetrovics was that there really is no direct link between these two factors.

On the other hand, it did come to be perceived a trend that associated people with high creativity with drug use , being the high creative capacity a risk factor for the consumption of drugs, and not vice versa.In addition, it was also shown that drugs had the ability to substantially alter a person's artistic approach, but that does not increase their creative production.

Finally, Demetrovics participated in a qualitative study with a sample of 72 people who were professionally dedicated to the art world. Most of these participants showed that the consumption of substances such as alcohol and cannabis helped them to balance the intense emotional states of the creative process, facilitating the appearance of new ideas and creativity.

However, despite the testimonies of the participants, it was not possible to specify or establish a direct relationship of causality between drug use and the increase of creative abilities, leaving the answer still on air.

Science, art and drug use

There are many cases and stories that relate to great celebrities from the world of art, music, literature and even science with the use of drugs, reaching the point that the artists themselves have publicly declared that they facilitated and enhanced the creative process.

1. Drugs and music: the case of Jim Morrison

It is well known that a large number of artists and composers turn to drug use to find inspiration , as well as to increase its performance on stage. Although there are dozens of cases, Jim Morrison's is one of the best known, both for his talent and for his unfortunate ending.

The vocalist of The Doors, went through numerous depressive and traumatic episodes that he tried to overcome through his musical creations and the consumption of drugs. Surely, the immense talent of Jim Morrison was independent of drug use but he clung to them as a driving force of inspiration and as a means to recover strength.

However, the drug addiction was wearing away more and more his creative capacity, as well as his physical state, causing his death at only 27 years old.

2. Aldous Huxley and inspiration through LSD

The prolific writer, author of great works like A Happy World (1932) or the island (1962), which came to try his luck with painting and even with parapsychology; came to attribute to LSD consumption the potential of their creativity . However, he himself warned of the dangers of their consumption, as well as the dependence that they can cause.

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3. Science, technology and drugs

There are many other stories about the drug use tendency of a large number of famous inventors, scientists and technology geniuses. One of them is the famous inventor Thomas Alva Edison , known to consume a substance known as "cocaine elixir" which contained this substance combined with wine.

Another example is the well-known computer magnate Steve Jobs, who admitted to consuming LSD in some occasions with the aim of enhancing his creativity and expanding the limits of his mind.


Joe Rogan on Drugs & Creativity (May 2024).


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