Drugs and Creativity

junio 29, 2020

Drugs and Creativity

For a long time illegal drugs have been associated with much more than abuse. Entrepreneurs and people of creative industries appreciated certain kinds of drugs for helping them to reach their accomplishments by boosting the enthusiasm, creativity and energy. Let’s take a look why and how it worked!

Drugs and Creativity

Legalization of cannabis has started the discussion about mind-altering drug use. So-called illegal substances have always been attractive. It is due to the special mental and physical sensations they are able to cause and thrill of the forbidden. Besides well known risks, certain drugs have always been associated with creativity and historically important accomplishments.

DNA was allegedly discovered after Francis Crick had gone through a LSD trip. He imagined the concept while being high, whereas his wife sketched his brainstorm resulting in the visual representation of the double helix. The German army widely used amphetamines to keep up with the pace of blitzkrieg in the early years of WW2. Sigmund Freud was heavily under the influence of cocaine when he developed his “psychoanalysis” work.

The inventor of computer mouse – Douglas Englebart credited his guided LSD sessions for creating the invention. Crick was also not the only scientist to credit LSD with his achievements. Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry Kary Banks Mullis did too. So did mathematician Ralph Abraham.  

Aldous Huxley is one of many talented writers who credited LSD for his inspirations. Ironically, he was also the one who warned about risks and dangers of reliance on drugs. Samuel Taylor Coleridge used opioids to open creative impulses while writing Kubla Khan.

All this stories show that illegal drugs in some cases are able to stimulate achieving accomplishments especially when it comes to courage, strength and creativity.

But how do those substances cause such affects? And why the drugs can be so beneficial for some people while completely wrecking the others?

The Brain On Drugs

Brain on drugs

Scientists are still struggling to answer these questions. There are so many parameters involved into interplay: personal history, character, mood, metabolism, predisposition to addiction and many others. Not to mention which kind of drug is used.

The biochemistry of some drugs make them much more likely to abuse than others. Heroin instantly triggers the feeling of happiness developing strong addiction after a single use. What is more dangerous, it can quickly shut down breathing responses.

Cocaine greatly boosts energy by triggering dopamine outbreak. However, it highly addictive due to this. As the contrast of being completely drained and demotivated is enormous after the energy explosion.

Cannabis, as science is finally discovering, not only causes euphoria, but also helps the body heal. So far, no-one has proved that it is addictive and no fatal overdoses are known.

All aforementioned drugs work in similar way. They stimulate or block particular biochemical responses in the brain. This results in strong impact throughout the body.

However, the control of illegal substances today have a long history for a reason. They change the brain works in some way. This, in turn, affects stimulation or blockage of neuron-level connectivity throughout the body. This can make the user feel more "creative” or simply better.

Famous Inventors Who Used Drugs

Drugs and famous inventors

The relation between innovation, creativity and drug use is well known and backed up by numerous examples. It is a fact that Thomas Edison used “cocaine elixirs”. Once it used to be a popular drink made of cocaine mixed with red wine. Paul Erdös, one of the most talented mathematicians used amphetamines well during his old age. He claimed they improved his productivity.

On the purely fictional level, drugs and performance have long been linked. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made his famed detective Sherlock Holmes an opium addict. His deductive genius was connected to his drug use and abuse.

In the real world the truth might be even stranger than in fiction. Many famous inventors claimed that the use of mind-altering drugs made their success possible. Steve Jobs – the creator of iPhone said that LSD was “one of the two or three most important things he had ever done in his life.” He even went too far criticizing Bill Gates for the lack of creativity due to no drug use.

LSD and DNA

There are some contradictions about discovery of DNA and LSD. Reports appeared after the death of Francis Crick in 2004. The story is that he was micro-dosing LSD while working on double helix. Other academics during the 1950s and 1960’s certainly believed that LSD “opened another level of consciousness.”

Timothy Leary is an American psychologist that perhaps was the most influential in using drugs in therapy. He was the first one to conduct a research with LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms at Harvard. The influence of his work found support in the counter-culture movement. Richard Nixon once titled him as the “most dangerous man in America.”

Cocaine and Psychotherapy

The use of drugs in psychotherapy starts with its founder Sigmund Freud. He moved away from public promotion of the cocaine with the beginning of 20th century but continued to use it personally. He also believed that dreams are the fulfilment of unfilled reality. Freud credited cocaine with giving him the courage to engage in this practice himself.

Coke and Cola

Coke and Cola

Freud’s papers had an impact on society far beyond the therapist’s couch. One of the most famous commercial examples is Coca Cola. Invented by a pharmacist from Atlanta John Pemberton the original drink contained real cocaine. Eventually the coca was excluded from the recipe, but natural coca leaves are still used by South American as a stimulant.

Where are we going now?

With cannabis entering the market, expect a lot more discussion on this topic from now on. Drugs are used to stimulate what is also known as “creativity.” This creativity, in turn, helps them see problems from different angle and find unusual solution.

This happens because drugs do actually alter the way brain works. Psychoactive substances alter a sense of time. This means that both chronology and a sense of time become blurred. Cause and effect also becomes disordered. Logical outcomes not seen before can even coexist. Many people also take such substances to lose feelings of self-consciousness which can inhibit speech and actions.

Biochemically it means that the brain fires of neurons throughout the body, which then create such sensations in the brain. Drugs that release high levels of dopamine into the body literally change the set of chemicals influencing the brain.

As far as drugs can be used for creative purposes that are positive, however, there is always a border line. Addiction, particularly to drugs like cocaine and amphetamines is also a problem of many celebrities to whom drugs helped to create the success.

The reality is that success in the material world is usually the result of training, perseverance and discipline. Those who use drugs to improve performance are not “lazy.” Nor have they succeeded “just because” of their drug use. Always keep that in mind and remember – better to be safe than sorry.

Take care and smoke responsibly!


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