Alcohol And Drugs 'Stifle Artistic Creativity'

By KingMe · Jun 25, 2010 · ·
  1. KingMe
    The idea that alcohol and drugs can stimulate artists, writers and musicians to create great works of art is a "dangerous myth" and can actually stifle creativity, a psychiatrist has said.

    Dr Iain Smith, a consultant in addiction psychiatry at Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow, was speaking at the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Edinburgh.

    He said that while many artists and writers, such as the 19th century French poet Baudelaire and American writer Ernest Hemingway, were well known for their use of intoxicating substances (cannabis and alcohol respectively), most produced their greatest works when they were sober.

    Dr Smith said: "The reason that this myth is so powerful is the allure of the substances, and the fact many artists need drugs to cope with their emotions. Artists are, in general, more emotional people and the use of substances to deal with their emotions is more likely to happen."

    He added that drugs and alcohol are social substances and many creative people, such as Ernest Hemingway and the French artist Degas, spent a lot of time in Parisian cafes exchanging ideas and imbibing large quantities of absinthe and other types of alcohol.

    Dr Smith said that American writers Tennessee Williams and Hemingway were both addicted to alcohol. He said poets Coleridge and Keats favoured opiates, as did writers Proust and Edgar Allan Poe, while Vincent van Gogh drank absinthe. American writers F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O'Neill and William Faulkner were all recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and all were alcoholics.

    Dr Smith told the Congress that the American writer Hunter S. Thompson once wrote: "I'd hate to advocate drugs, alcohol or insanity to anyone - but they've always worked for me". Baudelaire also urged fellow poets "to be drunk always".

    But from reviewing the evidence, Dr Smith claims that many of these artists were most productive during times of sobriety. He said: "The idea that drugs and alcohol give artists unique insights and powerful experiences is an illusion. When you try and capture the experiences [triggered by drugs or alcohol], they are often nonsense."

    For example, the strong visual experiences triggered by hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD, can be captured on canvas - but this is unlikely to happen in other fields such as music and writing. Dr Smith said: "These drugs often wipe your memory, so it's hard to remember how you were in that state of mind."

    Article Date: 25 Jun 2010

    Medical News Today
    Article URL:


  1. dyingtomorrow
    Argument of Article:

    Alcohol and Drugs stifle artistic creativity

    Supporting "Evidence":

    "Dr Smith claims that many of these artists were most productive during times of sobriety."

    "For example, the strong visual experiences triggered by hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD, can be captured on canvas - but this is unlikely to happen in other fields such as music and writing. Dr Smith said: 'These drugs often wipe your memory, so it's hard to remember how you were in that state of mind.'"

    ^^^ Ridiculously stupid and wrong on so many levels.

    There is of course a lot that could be said about how absolutely retarded the proposition is, that expanding your consciousness and/or seeing the world through different perspectives could possibly stifle your creativity. But the expectations for this article were so unbelievably low anyways that it's not even worth going into.

    I will however accept the claim that alcohol (but not "drugs") isn't the greatest thing for creativity.
  2. jazzguitar19
    If this isn't taxpayers money going into propaganda then I don't know what is. This just wreaks of "older intolerant men" who have never known or talked to an artist or musician. Although SWIM doesn't want to go about telling everyone that you have to partake in substances before art or music, SWIM is an artist and musician and has found that substances help relax, stimulate, and help his creative mind...any of SWIY's out there agree with SWIM?
  3. Amnesia
    Neon-Blue has neither the time nor the where-with-all to dissect this article as much as she’d like to but she has the following to say-

    Given that most of the people listed in this article are believed to have suffered from severe mental illness (see below for details) Neon-Blue believes a more apt inference from this information would be:
    People who suffer from severe mental illness often use drugs and/or alcohol as a means of self-medication, especially during periods of relapse. Severe mental illness often involves periods of formal thought disorders, poverty of thought, racing and tangential thoughts, the inability to concentrate, thought loops, catatonia, delusions etc - all of which can be detrimental to all aspects of the sufferer’s life, including the production of creative works.

    None of the conclusions stated by Neon-Blue are new, the increased use of drugs and alcohol in the mentally ill compared to the general population has been known for some time.
    It is unfair to state that the creativity of these people was suppressed only by their use of drugs/alcohol when it is likely that their mental illness played a very large role in their productivity or lack there-of.
    Neon-Blue hopes these conclusions have been taken out of context because she feels a psychiatrist really ought to know better.

    Notes regarding some of the people listed in the article, including their known or probable diagnosis (if known):

    Hemmingway / Bipolar Disorder / Family history of mental illness; Institutionalised; Committed suicide

    Poe / Bipolar Disorder / Family history of mental illness; Attempted suicide

    Van Gogh / Bipolar I / Family history of mental illness; Institutionalised; Committed suicide

    Baudelaire / Attempted suicide

    Williams / Recurrent Major Depression / Family history of mental illness; Institutionalised

    Coleridge / Bipolar I / Family history of mental illness

    Keats / Bipolar II or Cyclothymia

    Fitzgerald / Recurrent Major Depression or Bipolar Disorder / Institutionalised

    O’Neill / Recurrent Major Depression / Family history of mental illness; Institutionalised; Attempted suicide

    Faulkner / Institutionalised

    (From: Jamison, K. R. 1994. “Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament.”)
  4. Coconut
    Probably because most didn't use drugs on a regular basis, or didn't try to be creative when intoxicated.

    Next, please. That was too easy.
  5. Terrapinzflyer
    It seems to me much great art comes from very rough/trying times in the artists life, and these are times when many turn to drugs for relief. History is also replete with great artists who lost their magic when they became successful and life became to easy.
  6. mickey_bee
    What about the many famous artists who actually used inebriation as the subject for their works?
    Some of the most celebrated work by Gilbert&George was a direct interpretation of extreme inebriation, harking back to Surrealist ideas of uncovering the unconscious as the basis for all works of art, by any means possible.

    Definitely have difficulty in agreeing with this from an art history standpoint. Inebriation featured as both subject-matter and inspiration, (to varying degrees), in almost every modern art movement from Dadaism to Conceptualism, and to a lesser extent also in pre-20th century movements.

    How can an established psychiatrist start talking in such hideously generalised terms, about a discipline in which he is clearly not trained???

    Swim will agree that the role of drugs in many artworks are greatly misconceived by many members of the public, but that doesn't mean that no role was/is played by drugs in the art-world.
  7. dazedand
    Only an opinion, but seems as if Great Art (whatever that might subjectively mean) comes from Great Emotion - pain, sadness, passion, fear, hate, of course the ubiquitous love etc -
    Life can provide all of these.
    But drugs can amplify them, clarify them, detach them from your soul and force you to look at them from a different perspective -
    Art is too ephemeral to be defined by one precept, but drugs (to misquote Aldous Huxley) open the doors of perception and (to misquote SWIM) creatively challenge any truth that you'd known before

    Or is that just a load of old wank?

  8. EscapeDummy
    So the evidence he uses is a bunch of alcoholic 19th and early 20th century writers. Then he claims LSD 'wipes memory' and is unlikely to aid in music or writing. Using the articles logic, swim could say driving automobiles stifles artistic creativity; all artists created their greatest works while not behind the wheel.

    Writing - maybe. Swim isn't aware of too many tripper-authors, but there are a few big name ones (Hunter S. Thompson, Thomas Pynchon, Alduous Huxley). And music? You gotta be kidding me. The entire genres of acid rock, acid jazz, and psytrance are inundated with artists who have heavily used psychedelic/ various other drugs. And if you just say 'drugs' in general, from the Beatles to Crystal Method, Kurt Cobain to Lil Wayne, and everyone in between has used some substance, many heavily. Swim is sure if he did a little digging, he could find some famous movie directors or video game designers (he considers video games an art) who have done drugs. At MOST the article MAY have been able to claim, drugs do not enhance creativity, but even for that swim would call bullshit. To say they stifle creativity is preposterous.
  9. Charenton
    Doc Smith is not only an expert on media friendly "science" he is also an art critic.
  10. ZHW000000MMMMmmm...!!!...
    SWIM has schizotypical personality disorder which means SWIM thinks in a very creative, abstract way but is terrible at concrete thought, the opposite way of thinking of aspergers. Unlike schizophrenia SWIM doesn't believe any delusions with certainty or have hallucinations on the same level as reality but does easily get paranoid. If SWIM hears jumbled sounds off in the distance most people would notice but ignore SWIM's mind starts imagining to try and find out what the sounds are about "what if they're talking about SWIM" or "what if someone's looking through SWIM's window". Its generally colored by what ever SWIM happens to be thinking about at the time.

    As much SWIM loves SWIM's imagination and abstract thinking it gets tiring and makes SWIM paranoid, so sometimes its nice to take a drug that will make SWIM think more concrete and less creative. Stimulants do this and even calm me down. SWIM once snorted adderall and suddenly everything felt overwhelming but it wasn't SWIM's imagination that was overwhelming, that calmed down. For once SWIM was overwhelmed by physical sensation something SWIM ignores most of the time and SWIM had to go downstairs to sit still and suddenly just thought about how awesome SWIM was and about SWIM's likes and dislikes (something SWIM rarely does cause SWIM has major self-confidence issues because SWIM's mind is so into the outer world SWIM doesn't know SWIM's self that well). SWIM realized that's how a person with autism feels 24-7. It felt great at the moment but that's because SWIM spend most of SWIM's time in an excessively abstract world and the part about overwhelming physical sensation from everything wasn't good.

    DXM left the intense imagination intact but in some ways it was more intense and others less. But one thing that changed was the paranoia was gone and SWIM did everything without putting as much thought into it as SWIM usually does. It was relaxing.

    Guess what Im trying to say is artists & philosophers might sometimes take drugs to enhance their creativity but other times its to cool it off which might actually enhance it in the long run by helping with the anxiety.
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