Addictions and Art

By Oreskovic, Anto; Bodor, Davor | Alcoholism, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Addictions and Art

Oreskovic, Anto, Bodor, Davor, Alcoholism

Summary -

This paper examines addictions problems in art. We explained potential modalities of this relationship with emphasis on the creativity and the role of self medication related to latent psychopathological features such as mood disorders. While recent research did not provide sufficient information regarding this topic, the questions would the artists' creative output have been enhanced had they not been addicted to substances and what impact the addictive substances had on their ability to function as creative artists, still remain. An evaluation of the evidence of the link between creativity and substance abuse, especially alcohol, is presented.

Keywords: addictions; creativity; alcohol; psychoactive substances


Although the problem of addictions among artistic circles is well known, there are insufficient studies in which authors tried to investigate their influence and role in the artist's life. Doubt is often raised whether substance abuse was necessary in order to accomplish a creative potential, or substance abuse prevented the full expansion of artistic talent. Wider social environment's stereotypical perception is very often forgotten, and it often considers writers or artists' experiences with psychoactive substances as completely normal socializing experiences and latent or obvious attempts of artists to fit into such social expectations. Furthermore, a broader social stereotype implies that alcohol itself provides artists with inspiration. Some aspects, such as Iatent mental health issues in artists, related self-medication and anxiety connected with creative processes are pushed aside.

Why artists use psychoactive substances?

Pathographies of many famous writers, composers and painters contain descriptions of the devastating effects of substance abuse on their life journey (E. Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald...).8-10 Most papers explored the prevalence of alcoholism among artists and writers, such is the survey conducted by Nancy J. Andreasen where 30 % of writers suffered from alcoholism. When talking about the prevalence of addiction in art circles, there are studies which undoubtedly concluded that writers and actors are more susceptive to substance abuse than mathematicians or physicists.

There are many possible reasons why artists are considered to be much more affected by the substance abuse problems than general population. Jane Piirto, Ph. D., director of Talent Development Education at Ashland University notes in her article »The creative process in Poets«1 that the altered mental state brought by substances has been thought to enhance creativity to a certain extent.

Polish psychiatrist Dabrowski and psychologist Michael Oiechowski used the term of »emotional over-excitability«2 describing the influences of external stimuli on individual's nervous system and the capacity to feel and notice the same. Those with less sensitive nervous systems are better adapted to our more crowded living conditions. The more sensitive ones can only attempt to ease their discomfort by blunting their perceptions with alcohol or depressive drugs or, alternatively, by using conscience-altering drugs to transport their senses from the dysphoric world in which they live to private worlds of their own.

A concept related to excitability is »CNS augmenters«3 who have central nervous systems which augment or enhance the impact of sensory input, so being an augmenter is linked to substance abuse.

Freudian psychology implied that creativity is a sublimation of aggressive and sexual impulses or a response to emotional pain. A domineering, cold mother or any kind of unhappy childhood, according to this view, causes neurosis and anxiety. Proponents of this view point out that those same anxieties would cause alcoholism in writers and other artists.

It is very significant to point out the problem of latent mental health issues in artists and related self-medication. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Addictions and Art


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.