What Do Drugs Do To An Artist’s Brain?

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Drugs of all kinds have an impact on the brain, that is without question and scientists have been keen to study the effects of drug taking on human beings. One group of people that scientists have particularly focused upon is artists. Painters, writers and musicians have been associated with drug-taking for over a century now, but with the rise of the American ‘Beat’ generation the two seem to be inextricably linked. Famous artists have talked openly about their drug use, including Damon Albarn of the band Blur and Jason White, a Nashville songwriter.

The reason why so many artists feel that they need to take drugs in order to work is due to creative block, where the artists feels that they are unable to produce a song or paint unless they take alcohol or drugs. Damon Albarn reported his use of heroin, and Jason White also reports drinking heavily and using Marijuana. These drugs are supposed to make the artist more creative while also allowing them to produce great works. In fact, Jason White deliberately associates these elements when he describes his ‘biggest hit’ song being written while under the influence of marijuana, a drug he rarely uses. However, before artists start relying upon drugs for their creative inspiration, they need to consider whether these drugs might also be having negative long or short term repercussions.

Drugs and the creative mind

There are solid scientific reasons why artists may become drug users. Scientists understand that drugs such as Heroin and marijuana produce altered states of mind which can allow a creative person to experience new insights, and allow them to treat their subject-matter in a new and distinctive way. Drugs can help you to make conceptual leaps that join together things which would not usually be connected, allowing the artist to build new works on these basic thoughts. Alcohol, another common drug used by artists, also reduces brain inhibitions, so the artist is able to put down things which they might have repressed without alcohol. This is the beneficial side of drugs which many cultural theorists use to explain away the rise of drug use among creative people.

Drugs and the destruction of creativity

However, along with the altered mental state, drugs have an impact on the body and the mind that can destroy their ability to be creative. One of the reasons why so many artists end up in drug rehabilitation facilities such as in order to get away from the oppressive influence of drugs. Regular use, in order to be creative, often saps the energy, and the brain can start concentrating upon the craving for the drug, rather than on being inventive and original. As drug use becomes regular, the artists gain resistance to the drug, and end up taking more and more, until the majority of their time is spent taking drugs, rather than writing music or painting. As the brain is sapped of all thoughts aside from addition, creative production slows and artists find themselves increasingly producing minor works, or suffering complete creative blockages from which they never recover.

Written by Manny King John

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