Is there a link between creativity and addictive personalities?

Addiction is a powerful thing.

Genetics play a role and environment has also been found to have an impact. But what about creativity? Is there a chance that someone creative is at a higher risk of developing an addiction over someone who is less creative?

Some of the world’s most famous creative people such as Amy Winehouse, Johnny Depp, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol have all suffered from an addiction – whether it was alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs. So could there be a link?

David Linden, author and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine neuroscientist, has been said to have claimed that while there isn’t a link between creativity and addiction per se, there is a link between addiction and the things that are required for creativity.

Can drugs make you more creative?

While the psychedelic ‘60s brought new music, fashion, dance trends and festivals into this world, they can’t be down to an increase in drug usage. Drugs and alcohol alter your perceptions – that’s where the term beer goggles comes from. Since the 1960s some have seen marijuana as an artistic and creative aid. While the drug can change people’s perceptions that isn’t the same as reality, so it can’t make you more creative.

Creativity can mean lots of different things, such as designing, problem solving and writing.

It’s the process of creating something and it doesn’t just appear if you are addicted to something. Nor does it disappear. Drugs can actually affect your decision making, which is why it can lead to some people to make poor choices. Drugs can alter your perceptions and make you see things differently. While that may inspire creativeness – it wasn’t the creativity which led someone to take the drugs.

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What about inspiration?

We mentioned ‘inspire’ there and that’s where creativity can be drawn from. Inspiration is a big player in creativeness, take writer’s block as an example. An author can write many books, be halfway through their next novel and struggle to find the words to finish the chapter.

It’s not because they’ve lost their creativity, but more lacking inspiration. This is why authors like to live in the moment and visualise things. Most of Stephen King’s novels are set in his home state of Maine, a familiar place where inspiration can strike at any minute.

So why does creativity and addiction show some link?

As we mentioned earlier, some creative people have become addicted to drugs and alcohol. But there are plenty of other creatives who haven’t. Could it be that creative people are more open to trying new things, looking for inspiration and fall into trying drugs and alcohol?

Creative people look at the world differently, which can be both good and bad. It can sometimes lead to people looking at rules differently too and it’s here where the lines of addiction and creativity can get crossed.

When you become addicted to a substance your brain changes. The part of the brain responsible for life-sustaining functions. In fact, when drugs are taken, they can excite the part of the brain which is responsible for making you happy.

But over time, the brain gets used to that feeling. This leads people to take more drugs  to get that original feeling back. And this is how an addiction is formed.

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Addiction is a disease

Ultimately, addiction is a disease. It can’t make you more successful or creative. Creative people who suffer from an addiction should be cared for and advised to seek professional help like every other person with an addiction.

Their creativity, however, should not be seen as a result of an addiction. Addiction can affect anyone and it’s not always common drugs people are addicted to either. Many people have been admitted to rehab for prescription drug use. Whatever the addiction is to, there can be many reasons for developing it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you can find professional assistance and support from the NHS.

Creativity can lead to people to form creative justifications for their actions.

So while it could be argued that being creative can lead to people consuming drugs and alcohol, there is no clear link between creativity and someone having an addictive personality.


Jessica Foreman

About Jessica Foreman

I'm a Durham University graduate specialising in business and lifestyle-based writing. I have developed my skills on projects surrounding the BBC, and running a print and online-based magazine whilst at university. I am currently looking towards starting my Masters in Mobile and Personal Communications as well as broadening my horizons through travelling.