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Does creativity lend itself to addictions?


We see it again and again in the entertainment industry; a creative genius become famous, begins a cycle of drug and alcohol use and abuse and then they crash and burn.

The question is, does creativity lend itself to substance abuse? Remember it isn't just the entertainment industry that has a corner on creativity. There does seem to be an extremely high percentage of performers who have died from their substance abuse or who are taking a lengthy spiral down a long road to self destruction.

To make this more interesting, name your favorite musician, actor, entertainer who has never been connected to substance abuse.


schula 5 years, 12 months ago

I think that as the creative genius becomes more famous and has more money, they are tempted to try drugs and alcohol. I don't think it means they didn't already have an addictive personality it's just that they now have easier access to drugs.

My favorite musician that has nevr been connected to substance abuse is George Strait.

heavenhangover 5 years, 11 months ago

This simply is not true. One is born with the predisposition for addiction which lies dormant until triggered, (which means they have only to take one drink or do a drug one time and they are off to the races so to speak). If it were merely a matter of money then it would stand to reason that the majority of wealthy people would fall prey to this as well, but there appears to be absolutely no findings of fact that would indicate that being true. Furthermore, your comment intimates that one has a realistic "control" in "deciding" (per their actions) to either go overboard or practice moderation. The word "moderation" does not exist in the mind of an addict/alcolholic; once the disease is activated and begings to progress to greater levels of dependency, there no longer exists the same concept of "choice" in that the addict/alcoholic has no choice when left to their own devices. It is a killer and it does not discriminate. It is a mental illness and must be treated as such.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Excellent comment and explaination. There are many of us who just do not understand the most basic of concepts when discussing addiction / many of whom are themselves addicts. An indequate understanding of the connection between addictions and addicts is missing in our society as a whole. I hope that's changing by people such as those with your knowledge base speaking up.

I've known too many alcoholics that think they should be able to drink wine if their previous problem was with beer, or vice versa. So my question is, are all addictions created equal? Meaning, does a sexual addiction get triggered as easily as a gambling or drug addiction? And, as with most mental illness, should we assume there are varying levels of addiction/addicts. Meaning some people are lesser addicts and therefore respond to treatment more readily? Thanks!

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Good point about having an addictive personality type. They don't call George straight for nothing. Lol

I'd say many of the musicians and entertainers have experimented with substance abuse long before they became famous and that many already may be considered to be addicted.

lonelane_1 5 years, 12 months ago

As far as I know the prolific and enduring Van Morrison has not had addition problems. It seems that often successful creative people have a lot of "hangers-on" people around them that tempt them with far too many things that aren't good for them. Then there's the percentage of creative people who are convinced that alcohol or other substances enhance their creativity.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Van Morrison! Cool!

And I'm one of those with an addition problem. :)

lonelane_1 5 years, 12 months ago

However I seem to have spelling problems. I meant addiction problems, not addition problems....an entirely different thing!

Marcy McGuffie 5 years, 12 months ago

I'm with Shula and think it comes down to availability and the opportunity for these creative types to be exposed to more substances. This is straying off topic a little bit, but there is also a correlation between IQ and substance (particularly alcohol abuse). Studies have shown that children with higher IQ, are more likely to develop drinking problems. Something about the stress of being gifted, leading to self medication. There are many SMART people, who develop addictions.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

I agree many smart people have gone in the direction of addictions. Are there more smart addicts than say average IQ or less than average IQ addicts? I seriously doubt it. I agree people who are of high(er) intellect may have adjustment and awareness concerns that other people do not - 'Flowers For Algernon' comes to mind. Self medication has been a technique used by those people who have mental illness as well.

As far as availability, Marcy and Schula, look around you. I don't believe either of you have children, but you can get anything you want from junior high school contacts and it's been that way for several decades now, unfortunately.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Ted is not dead From a drug overdose He has notes in his head that Come out through his hands. They stimulate him along with his band. From all those faithful fans Rock on!

RoeDapple 5 years, 12 months ago

Uncle Ted was in answer to your last question. I might even say his behavior toward weapons and hunting borders on addictive.Not that I see anything wrong with that . . .

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

There are many forms of addictions! I hadn't realized that Uncle Ted was a relative to the cuzin degree until your post. I think he's related by autie's side of the family. Hehe

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

It sounds as though the majority of us think famous people, in whatever arena, are more likely to be addicts. I think I have to disagree.

I think there are plenty of men with sexual addictions (women too) who are not famous. I believe there are plenty of people who never become well known because their addictions stop them from making it. I also believe that most people begin their experimentation with substance abuse quite early in life but may not appreciate they are addicted until years later - smoking and drinking are prime examples of this.

So Autie, who is your famous example(s) of someone famous who hasn't been associated with substance abuse?

Jay_lo 5 years, 12 months ago

People with sex addictions are less likely to be famous because their hands are too busy to be creative in a physical sense. They may have very creative ideas that they find hard to master the physical manifestation of.

They may not be great writers, painters, etc. however some are very gifted photographers, film makers etc. but they tend not to seek credit for their body of work.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Lol. This one made me laugh outloud. I was going to ask you how you know these things, but I fear your hands are too busy to respond!

Good points about other creative professions. I've been giving thought to famous authors and that's difficult too.

lonelane_1 5 years, 12 months ago

With Ted Nugent's huge addictions to guns and ego I would think there's no room for subtance addictions. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Lol. I have to say Uncle to this one! :)

No, seriously, I just found out he's an uncle via autie and Roe clan.

Yes, there are many addictions. When does a quirky personality trait show up as an addiction? I guess it depends on who is observing.

lonelane_1 5 years, 12 months ago

Addictions afflict every category of people you can name. But if the question is "Does creativity lend itself to addictions?" it's truly difficult to come up with names of famous creative people who have not had problems with some sort of substance abuse. It can be done but not without having to eliminate so many names that come to mind first.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 12 months ago

It could be the other way around: addiction lends itself to creativity. Some folks are pretty resourceful when it comes to feeding their habit.
Mel Brooks, maybe? He is a comic genius and, as far I as I know, doesn't have any issues with addiction.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Excellent point. Nothing compares to 'the creativity a mind in need of a fix can come up with. These are usually observed as lies, treachery, deceit, thievery, etc.
Mel Brooks it is!!!

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

I absolutely agree, Lone. Everytime I think of someone I've had to rethink it.

Now there are degrees too. For example, The Beatles were individually fairly well known for some experimentation, but I don't think any of them became addicts or went through a treatment facility or program.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

I love that! Uncle Ted sounds like he's a Republican?

TopJayhawk 5 years, 11 months ago

Uncle Ted has been a Republican for several decades. Hang in there Rhonda. I guess even you can't know everything.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Lol, that's for sure! And especially on topics I care nothing about. I really don't care if anyone is democrat, republican or independent. I'd hope they vote and that's about all that matters to me.

We did have a fun time at our latest backyard gathering naming someone famous we'd like to be President. I suggested Clooney, but that was because Regan was already taken and he's deceased. :)

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Interesting that you noted Hemingway. I've been thinking about him all morning. In his case, as with so many people, his addiction seemed to be secondary and a means of self medicating an underlying mental illness. It sounds like this is 'the case with the majority, if not all, of the others you listed. I agreed that addicts and creative people surround us. Are the two coupled?

Maybe the better question would be, does mental illness lend itself to addiction. And, are mentally ill people more creative?

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

sr, was an addict?

I loved him. What a great comic mind!

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 12 months ago

I've been told that Jim Nabors wanted to be a singer. But, he was unsuccessful in that field. So, the career for which he became famous was actually his second choice.

sr80 5 years, 12 months ago

What I was meaning to say is he was'nt addicted or connected to drug abuse.I believe he was a natural good person.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for coming back to clarify that. I hadn't ever heard any addiction connections about him.

Ron, I heard him sing numerous times. He had an amazing voice but his looks weren't standard Hollywood looks of that time frame.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 11 months ago

That reminds me of something that I've thought for many years. That is, I think that famous actors for the movie studios were not picked for their talent, because people with fantastic talent are not particularly rare, especially in Hollywood.

Instead, the famous actors that we see on screen, with a few exceptions of course, were selected for a predetermined physical appearance which exactly matched what the studio already had in mind, before the casting calls.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Back in 'the day they were totally controlled by studios, and now they seem in many respects to be left to their own devices and are totally out of control. Remember the drug addictions that Judy Garland and Liz Taylor experienced basically at 'the hands of 'the studio? They told them who to date, when to have children, where and when to eat and vacation. I'm not sure how much that has changed. Many are under a great deal of pressure from managers, contracts, fans, press. I'm sure it has to be stressful in ways I can't even begin to imagine. Add to that mix that they fear a loss of creativity - a lot of pressure!

bandwoman 5 years, 12 months ago

I am surrounded by musicians. Many musicians believe that drugs enhance their creative process and open them to inspiration. I think it sometimes starts out that way, and then becomes a problem with increased use, as with any addiction. It's like having a baby tiger as a pet-- it might be fun for awhile, but as they grow you might get eaten.. I think many musicians learn early to deal with the stress of being on stage by drinking or taking pills. Most of the musicians I know do not have healthy self esteem. The ones who act cocky are even less secure. I think many are looking for approval in a BIG way, and especially if they are playing original music, they are putting themselves "out there" publically to be targets of either approval or disapproval in a way that most of us don't ever experience. As people get more famous and the pressure grows because the attention grows, then the insecurities get bigger and bigger and the addictions get bigger and bigger. Will Smith seems to have escaped it.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Lol, and an attention seeker. I do think she has shown creativity without addiction though. Although, she may be a media addict.

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 12 months ago

The label, I believe, is a "media whore." But I guess that can be an addiction.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Tsk tsk, Boston. Your dislike of Sarah is showing through. I'm concerned that you appear to be stuck on Sarah. It's time to let it go. Move along to someone more deserving of your disdain. She's small, fried potatoes.
Now scat! Lol

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 12 months ago

I am thinking about moving on to Bachman.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

You make excellent points about musicians, band. And your example of a tiger cub lends itself well to the budding beast of addiction.

Will Smith is a very cool person. He certainly shines as a positive example in many respects, and he's about as creative as they get. Thanks!

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 12 months ago

Being a FOX loving hyper right wing conservative. Seriously, look him up.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 12 months ago

I know that mental illness, including depression, is frequently tied to creative genius and addiction plays into that. I read a study published some time ago that creativity is tied to the right brain and that for some reason, it appears that over development of the right brain contributes to mental illness. This held true even for those creative geniuses engaged in, by and large, logical pursuits. Dr. John Nash (the subject of the movie A Beautiful Mind) is a good example. Albert Einstein suffered from almost painful shyness and was an agoraphobe. Many musical geniuses, from Mozart to Jerome Kern, suffered from bi-polar disorder. (I have personal experience with this. One of my best friends, and my son's godfather, for whom he was named, is a professional composer. He, too, has also battled bi-polar disorder for almost his entire life.) The question is, does the illness create the genius or does the genius create the illness?

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

You make some intelligent, dare I say 'creative', points.

I remember the study about a year ago about 'extreme' mental illness linked to creativity. Maybe it's the same one you're referring too.

It discussed how that firm line between reality and fantasy wasn't there for some people, and how it lends itself well to creative genius.

I remember a fellow poet and myself having a good laugh over it.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Oh, and I don't believe one creates the other - they may be tied together in some beautiful minds. Our society has benefited greatly for being able to experience these out of our norm feats: music, art, dance, literature. It's truly amazing where the mind takes us if we allow the unconscious or other aspects to be released.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 12 months ago

"that firm line between reality and fantasy"

What? It's a firm line? Are you sure?

verity 5 years, 12 months ago

One might say a fine line, but I tend to see it as rather fuzzy.

But that could be because I'm terribly near-sighted.

lonelane_1 5 years, 12 months ago

Neither Alfred Hitchcock nor Rod Serling had substance abuse problems that I'm aware of.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 12 months ago

Rod Serling was a three pack a day smoker and died from lung cancer due to it.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 12 months ago

Oh and Hitchcock was alcohol addicted as well.

TopJayhawk 5 years, 11 months ago

No, Alfred was a major pervert. Liked the ladies and the kiddies too.

lonelane_1 5 years, 12 months ago

cait48, interesting thoughts but I don't know if we'll ever know the answer to your question. It's a bit like trying to answer "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

lonelane_1 5 years, 12 months ago

Oops, guess Rod Serling had an addictive personality after all.

Jay_lo 5 years, 12 months ago

Ronda, did you hear about the chef who had to give up his addiction to pornography?

He had too much Thyme on his hands!

June Carter Cash never gave in to addiction herself and also managed to pull her Man in Black back from the edge. Saved his life, his career, and helped turn him into a true legend.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

Hehe. Good one, Jay! Personally my hands are filled with cumin seeds right now. :)

June - everybody wants and needs one. Johnny ended up with a June addiction! :)

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 12 months ago

In country music, there is this particular performance of 'I Fall To Pieces', performed by Patsy Cline on February 23rd, 1963. It was obviously not her best performance of it. .

And then, on March 5, 1963, 10 days later, she died as a passenger in a private aircraft that fell from the sky.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

It may have. I believe pilots are taught to abstain from any music produced and sung by The Monkees! :)

Hope you're doing well, Agnostic.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 12 months ago

There are so many well known performers in just about every field that have died in aircraft disasters! And a lot of them were due to one single factor: the pilot was not an instrument rated pilot, and he was trying to fly in weather where an instrument rating was obviously required.

Patsy Cline's death and 'The Day The Music Died' were very obvious examples of that. No aircraft is any safer than the wisdom, experience, and attentiveness of the pilot.

There's a little bit of trivia about the death of the singer Aaliyah. She and several other people were killed because the aircraft they were passengers in failed to gain altitude after takeoff, that is, it did not rise up into the air as expected.

Here's the trivia: In Hebrew, Aliyah (עלייה) means "ascent", or "to rise up", which is exactly what the aircraft failed to do after takeoff.

Jay_lo 5 years, 12 months ago

Stevie Ray Vaughan - helicopter following a show. Best blues guitarist ever. He had gotten his life back together and was straight and sober following a bad alcohol addiction.

Popular music leads to tours and performance dates and a lot of air travel in between for some. More time on a plane, more chance for accidents, especially the little planes that hop between smaller venues.

Jay_lo 5 years, 12 months ago

Ronda famous poetress Her addiction is to what? To make the world a better place No ifs, no and, no but

No substance she abuses For she gets along just fine Nuturing the friendships That she's made along the line

There is nothing that she craves More than having friends so true That she can surely turn to them When troubles make her blue

So if she has any addiction That she'll carry to the end It's the need to give all of herself To be the perfect friend

Ronda Miller 5 years, 12 months ago

This is touching! I'm off to a meeting and then I'll respond. Btw, any word from the recent submissions?

Jay_lo 5 years, 12 months ago

Blue Island, just a short while ago, does not match their personal taste (times 3)

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Same with my son. I'm about to have a heart attack everytime I check emails. I hate caring that much but I do So if you must know An addiction I have It's a poetry jones And I've got it bad I read em and write em Dream em and subscribe to em But of all that I've read the ones stuck in my head Were written by those whom I love.

beatrice 5 years, 12 months ago

The artist is exposing their inner feelings for others to enjoy, mock, criticize or, the worst of all, ignore. Wearing your heart on your sleeve means you make yourself vulnerable. It is much easier to never open yourself up for criticism. Always being open to others is far more difficult. Additionally, creative people often are not fully satisfied after they have finished with a project. They believe they could have done better. That can lead to depression, which can lead to drugs. John Lennon, for instance, hated his voice and felt he could improve what he did with the Beatles.

Also, the idea of drugs going hand in hand with rock and roll is a cliche that people fall into. Doing drugs is easy. Dealing with life is hard.

However, I'm not sure entertainers do necessarily have that many more deaths from addictions, we just hear about them. We tend not to notice when the plumber across town drinks himself to death.

For the straight and narrow path favorite, I will have to go with Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. Well known for not doing drugs, he saved his money and now is a successful businessman, owning salmon farms in England.

Ted Nugent is high on the list of non-drug users as well. Also, his guitar does not gently weep.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Nugent's guitar doesn't gently weep - is that song of Harrisons not the most amazing!!

I agree creative people are often hyper sensitive souls and they certainly experience the high of performing and then the natural drop that has to occur once the adrenaline stops flowing. They're as addicted to that feeling too, I'd think.

You made some great points.

haikuqueen 5 years, 12 months ago

Doesn't everyone have some sort of addition, food, texting, T.V., sex and pornography, abuse of animals and people, internet surfing, exercising, thrill seeking, money and/or power (aren't they the same thing?) and one could argue religion - just to name a few? I believe there are as many addictions as there are people. Fortunately, most addictions don't kill us, but the few that do may be natures way of culling the herd (survival of the fittest.) Be careful out there! I would also ask, what does talented mean, writing, cooking, cleaning house, adopting pets, singing, dancing, cobbling shoes, weaving baskets, throwing pottery, being a good parent, painting pictures or houses, being a world class athlete or people who volunteer their help in whatever fashion? Most people, whether talented or not, don't spend their lives in the public eye. They can be just addicted as "famous people." I think addiction runs the gammit from poor to rich, from average to talented and from followers to politicians and people of power. We sometimes hear about the destruction and death of the average person, but that's not sensational enough for the press. They need headlines. A good headline could come from a "famous" person kicking an addiction, but the best headline, and one they will keep beating us over the head with, is one about a famous person or creative genius smoking, snorting or shooting-up himself/herself to death. I had a friend who was addicted to alcohol, drugs and pornography who could cook a lasagne better than any Itaian mother and could tell jokes better than most comedians. The alcohol killed his liver, but because he wasn't an important or famous person, he just got a regular obituary and was dropped into a hole in the ground without much ceremony or after-thought by anyone but his friends. Something for all of us to consider no matter who we are. Anyone of us can be and probably are addicted to something, even if we aren’t aware of it.

Sirens lure our boats
to cocaine rocks sky high lash us to the mast

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 12 months ago

The only lasting thing that we will leave behind is other people's memories of us.

Obviously your friend, even though he didn't get any fame or get a well attended funeral, left you many good ones.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Well, haikuqueenie, I'd say some of the things you name are habits, loves, etc. I'd say the difference is in how life threatening the object of pleasure, or abuse, happens to be. I'd say it isn't an addiction unless it's life threatening. Certainly overeating, drinking, drugging all can be life threatening.

And yes, we've all known people who have died from their addictions. Some within one event gone wrong or another over a lifetime.

I love the Haiku!

camper 5 years, 12 months ago

Eric Clapton is a fine example of someone who has completely turned his life around. It is very interesting to read any interviews he gives (which is not really a great #). But you can get great insight into his journey of sobriety...which he often talks about briefly...but does not try to advertise.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Yes, he's a terrific example, Camper. And if anyone had an excuse to be a drunk, he most certainly did. He's shown amazing strength and growth over his life.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 12 months ago

The professional composer I mentioned earlier that I am close to that suffers from bipolar disorder underwent a drug regiment to control his illness. They put him on lithium and the drug destroyed his creativity. It controlled his illness but he didn't write a word or note for over a year. He finally told his doctor, in desperation, that something had to be done. This was not just a hobby, this was his livelihood. They put him in the hospital and withdrew the lithium. He immediately flipped into hypermania with psychotic paranoid features. Experimenting with different dosages of different drugs they created a "cocktail" that brought him down to a controlled state of hypomania that dealt with the depressive factors and also treated the psychotic features. He was still mildly crazy but he was functional and he could write again.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Cait, how heart breaking. I've known a couple of people who also just aren't the same person when they're medicated, but without the medication they wouldn't be in our world at all. It's terribly disturbing that our society just hasn't come up with anything really very helpful Or at least not for everyone. I think there is no better example of how diverse each person's body is than when it comes to individual interaction of medication.

My best wishes for your friend. And we wonder why so many stop taking their medications. Not. ......

verity 5 years, 12 months ago

I've known people who thought that drugs spurred their creativity, but what they thought was clever when they were high turned out not to be the next morning. Not saying mind-altering substances don't make some people more creative, but sometimes (in my experience, most times) they just get silly.

It also seems that some people need to be depressed in order to do their most creative work and others are just the opposite.

And some people just like to dance with the devil.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 12 months ago

"And some people just like to dance with the devil." O_o A Flogging Molly fan? OTOH you have the story of Samuel Taylor Coleridge writing "Kublah Khan" under the influence of opium. He didn't finish it because he was interrupted while writing it and when he went back to it, he had "come down" and was unable to regain the creative rush that spurred it.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Still, I think the experience of being in an altered state for some people lends itself to a creativity burst - not necessarily at the time of their 'highdom' but afterwards - rather like taking a trip to a foreign land and once you're home again all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, etc., present themselves and a song or lyric is written, a poem or short story envelopes and encompasses. It an entire experience of the senses.

riverdrifter 5 years, 11 months ago

Jackson Pollock. Died drunk behind the wheel but his artistic hay was in the barn. Still, you wonder what was left behind in that mind? There was more to come.

TopJayhawk 5 years, 11 months ago


Short answer is yes.

Long answer. Many of these creative people are bi-polar. Which is how they have been able to rise to the top, and lends itself to axis ll issues. They also have a lot of free time to get into bad habits. also the party circuit does not help this.

So yes.

Kookamooka 5 years, 11 months ago

I don't want to associate creativity with mental illness because it's an important part of our human culture. These are people who think differently, act differently and they aren't necessarily sick...just different. I think the substance abuse comes because the Masses can't accept differences and that alienates the artist. There is a "self-medicating" with drugs and alcohol that seems to happen. It's really, really sad. I wish there were some way to help them without diluting their genius.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

I agree, Kookamoo, and certainly there are examples of creative geniuses who don't have associated mental illness (there are very well known ones who do by our society's standards too), but there does seem to be a lot of names (creative people) associated with substance abuse.

Who is your favorite entertainer who isn't associated with substance abuse?

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Love Richard's quote and he's been there and done that - and lived to talk about it.

No, I'm not equating the tortured soul with fine art. I'm asking if the creative mind is more open to trying things out of the norm, so to speak, because of their having less restrictions, thought process less like structured society, boundless in possibilities. I appreciate where you were going with it though, and I can't say I totally disagree. Good point, but there are millions of happy people who create too - they create happy music, art, architecture, music. I look at the difference between someone like Lennon and McCartney for example. Both men are/were amazingly creative, but I saw Lennon as more tortured and unhappy and it showed in his lyrics. McCartney, in my mind at least, writes more lighthearted, romantic music and lyrics. Then you have someone such as Harrison who absolutely shined with spirituality. Which one of 'the mop tops was more creative? I wouldn't even attempt to answer that, but their core or essence certainly was uniquely different.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

I absolutely agree with everything you said. Well system! It sounds as though you speak from the mindset of someone who is creative.

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