Substance use disorder (SUD), also known as addiction, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a complex, chronic brain disorder. The Mayo Clinic explains addiction as a disease “that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication” without regard for consequence. The connection between addiction and creativity has long been a subject of interest and exploration. While it is important to note that not all individuals who are creative struggle with addiction, there are some observations and theories that suggest a potential link between the two, such as:
- Self-medication hypothesis: The self-medication hypothesis suggests that individuals with heightened creativity may be more prone to turning to substances to cope with emotional pain, anxiety, depression, and/ or other mental health challenges.
- Self-expression and coping mechanism: Creativity, whether through art, music, writing, or other forms, can serve as a powerful outlet for self-expression and emotional catharsis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are two main reasons creative people use and abuse substances: to enhance imagination or awareness, and to self-medicate.
- Co-occurring mental health issues: There is a high rate of overlap between mental illness and substance abuse. When people have two diagnoses simultaneously, it is referred to as comorbidity. When comorbidity involves SUD and another diagnosis, it is called a dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis is so prevalent, that approximately half of the people who experience a mental illness not related to substance abuse will also experience SUD, and vice versa. Research indicates that creative individuals are prone to mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder, which can increase the risk of addiction.
- Drug tolerant culture: Certain creative environments, such as artistic communities or industries, are known to embrace a culture that normalizes or even promotes substance use. Peer influence, exposure to substances within these environments, and/ or a desire to conform to the perceived expectations of the creative world can contribute to increased substance use among creative individuals.
After conducting studies on the heritability of addiction, David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, found that 40 percent of a person’s predisposition to substance addiction is genetically determined. Although there is no single “addiction gene,” the known genes cause a decreased signaling of the neurotransmitter dopamine for pleasure and reward. Through brain-imaging studies and biochemistry tests in rats and monkeys, Linden found that addicts categorically crave pleasure more often but feel it less intensely. Linden goes on to explain that the link between drug use and addiction is connected to “prerequisites” for creativity.
For Information and Support
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.