Can One Become More Creative By Doing Drugs?

Can One Become More Creative By Doing Drugs?
Posted by FoM on August 08, 2000 at 20:16:01 PT
By Cynthia Kuhn & Wilkie Wilson
Source: Salon Magazine
Dear Buzzed, Musicians, artists and writers are notorious drug users. What is the relationship between creativity and drug use? Have any studies ever been done linking the use of psychedelics with creativity? Will pot make you a better writer? Aspiring Artiste 
Dear Aspiring, You've asked Buzzed a tough question because there is not much research about drugs and creativity. Creativity is a subjective part of the human experience, and to answer your question, someone would have to give people drugs and then measure their inspiration -- not an easy task for two reasons. First, since the government believes that most of these drugs have no medical benefit, there are legal barriers to doing such research in humans. Second, our usual animal subjects, rats, don't tend to express much observable creativity, so we can't use them either. We can only talk about a small amount of human research done before the drugs became illegal. Unfortunately, most of that research was done without controls and by people who were strong advocates of drug use. As a result, we really don't have much high-quality data. You are right that many artists use drugs as part of their creative process. These people tend to experiment in many aspects of their lives, and drugs may be one of the vehicles. There is also a strong association between bipolar illness (manic-depressive illness) and the artistic temperament, and many who suffer from this disorder abuse alcohol and stimulants to control their violent mood swings. Finally, there are people who take drugs intentionally for inspiration. Do they get what they're looking for? Maybe, maybe not. Most people know about the famous writers who drank alcohol to excess (Edgar Allan Poe, Eugene O'Neill, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, to name a few). Did it make them better writers? Most of them would say not. A study published in the British Journal of Addiction looked at their biographies and found that most did not drink excessively while they wrote and thought that they did their best work when sober. One drink might "get you going" by disinhibiting you, but that might not be the most effective way to write a whole book. Some people take drugs, especially hallucinogens like LSD or mescaline, to change their perceptions or tap into parts of their mind that they cannot access easily. Hunter S. Thompson said it simply: "A cap of good acid (LSD) costs five dollars and for that you can hear the Universal Symphony with God singing solo and the Holy Ghost on drums." Does this work? Certainly hallucinogens create unusual visions for many people and naturally good writers and painters sometimes create beautiful stories about these experiences. But this doesn't mean that they can make you more artistic, which is the most common association between creativity and drugs. while hallucinogens probably won't make you artistic, if you are artistic you may record the events more beautifully than does the normal, nonartistic fellow. Much has been made of Samuel Coleridge's writing his famous work "Kubla Khan," which recounts a dream he had while intoxicated on opium. Could most of us have written this poem, even after such a dream? Not likely. Can drugs help you tap into a "deeper understanding" that permanently enhances your perception of the world around you? That is the crucial question, and for that we have no research-driven answer. But many artists would say yes. Hallucinogens can give an artist a false sense of security. A work that might appear spectacular to a tripping brain might seem absolutely trivial after the trip is over. A group of students we know were convinced that LSD would help them create great art. Since they were of a scientific bent, they experimented with painting without taking any drugs and then compared that work with some paintings they did while tripping. The work they did while on LSD seemed absolutely fabulous to them at the time they were doing it, but when they looked at it the next day, it was just a splotch of colors in no discernible pattern. One thing is for certain: Drugs that are downers, including opiates, alcohol and marijuana, can impair artistic performance because they sedate you and decrease your coordination. Legions of musicians have discovered that marijuana may make them feel mellow but does not make them play better. On the other hand, anxiety-reducing drugs that reduce stage fright could improve artistic performance. The bottom line: Drugs create unusual perceptions, and artists frequently exploit drug experiences, as they do other parts of their lives, in creating art. Will hallucinogens or similar drugs make a normal person the next Ernest Hemingway? We think not. Will an intense hallucinogenic experience change how people attend to the world around them, enabling them to better use their experiences for creating art? Maybe, but this is a personal question, one that is so individualized that it can't be answered by clinical studies, let alone science in general. Buzzed appears every Wednesday in Salon Health. Do you have a question? E-mail us at buzzed About the Writer:Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., is a professor of pharmacology at Duke University Medical School and heads the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program at Duke. She is coauthor of "Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs From Alcohol to Ecstasy" and of the forthcoming book "Pumped: Straight Facts for Athletes About Drugs, Supplements and Training" (W.W. Norton). Buzzed Wilson, Ph.D., is a professor of pharmacology at Duke University Medical Center. He studies how drugs affect the brain, particularly the processes of learning and memory. He is also coauthor of "Buzzed" and of the forthcoming book "Pumped." Sound Off:Send us a Letter to the Editor Link To Above Article: Posted: August 9, 2000Copyright © 2000 Salon.comCannabisNews Search - Salon Magazine:
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Comment #4 posted by dddd on August 10, 2000 at 03:22:23 PT
strange creation
After thinking about the question concerning drugs,and their relationship to enhancing creativity....I have decided to give my unsettling opinion.I have to preface my comments,with some typical qualifications,and 'disclaimeresque'things;a.)I am not recommending that anyone do drugs to scare up some unknown,or undiscovered creativity from within.There is no reason why one cannot be even more creative without any drugs,in fact,a "non-drug"induced creativity is probably more pure and special,than one that is influenced by substances.b.)When I,or anyone else,uses the abused term;"drugs",,there is an immediate problem,in that people dont realize the importance of defining the meaning of the word,before they start using it.It's like if I had owned two cars in my life,and one was a Yugo,and one was a Chevy Vega,(no offense to Yugo or Vega owners,but I think they were lemons)....and then I start writing about how cars are "undependable peices of crap,and cars are no good".That would be idiotic,because all cars are not the same as the junkheaps I owned,and it's the same when people say "drugs are bad".At this point it immediatly becomes quite intricate,not to mention obvious,but the point is that "drugs",are not one thing,yet they are spoken about as if they are.....a 1968 Rambler,is not a 1988 Cadillac,,just as marijuana is not cocaine.........etc.c.) MARIJUANA IS NOT A DRUG! Now that I have overqualified my thing like sending a firetruck to put out a match,I'm almost ready to say what I wanna say.Before I do,let it be known that I am drug veteran,baby boomer,semi-retired hippie,who was born in the mid fifties.I am an accomplished,classicly schooled,professional musician.I've been playing since I was 8 years old. I did massive quanities of LSD,mecsaline,mushrooms,hash,weed,speed before I graduated high school.Fortunately I never did heroin,but being a performing musician,touring the west coast,I did develop a nagging cocaine problem in the eighties. So now that I've already said too much,I have to hassle with defining what specific drugs I am commenting on....I'm talking about ones known as "psychedelic",which I should define,but I've already gone on too many sidetracks. The question is,"do drugs make one more creative?"..No,,but they will give you alot of ideas and material to work with,,,and,,in a previous article, a related question is asked;"can drugs enhance your spiritual awareness?"...absolutely,,but that doesnt mean that they should be made legal and promoted as some kinda insto-Picasso/guru-monk-priest tylenol gel cap. I think marijuana should be completely legalized.I think most other drugs should be un-illegalized,and I think a bunch of other things,,,,,,,,,,but I'll tell ya later...I gotta go........dddd
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Comment #3 posted by observer on August 09, 2000 at 17:19:40 PT
What Harry Had To Say
Here's What Harry (Anslinger) wanted you to know:No one can predict its effect. No one knows, when he places a marijuana cigarette to his lips, whether he will become a philosopher, a joyous reveler in a musical heaven, a mad insensate, a calm philosopher, or a murderer. . . .It began with the whispering of vendors in the Southwest that marijuana would perform miracles for those who smoked it, giving them a feeling of physical strength and mental power, stimulation of the imagination, the ability to be “the life of the party.” The peddlers preached also of the weed’s capabilities as a “love potion.” Youth, always adventurous, began to look into these claims and found some of them true, not knowing that this was only half the story They were not told that addicts may often develop a delirious rage during which they are temporarily and violently insane; that this insanity may take the form of a desire for self-destruction or a persecution complex to be satisfied only by the commission of some heinous crime. . .ONE of the first places in which marijuana found a ready welcome was in a closely congested section of New York. Among those who first introduced it there were musicians, who had brought the habit northward with the surge of “hot” music demanding players of exceptional ability, especially in improvisation. Along the Mexican border and in seaport cities it had been known for some time that the musician who desired to get the “hottest” effects from his playing often turned to marijuana for aid.One reason was that marijuana has a strangely exhilarating effect upon the musical sensibilities (Indian hemp has long been used as a component of “singing seed” for canary birds). Another reason was that strange quality of marijuana which makes a rubber band out of time, stretching it to unbelievable lengths. The musician who uses “reefers” finds that the musical beat seemingly comes to him quite slowly, thus allowing him to interpolate any number of improvised notes with comparative ease. While under the influence of marijuana, he does not realize that he is tapping the keys, with a furious speed impossible for one in a normal state of mind; marijuana has stretched out the time of the music until a dozen notes may be crowded into the space normally occupied by one. Or, to quote a young musician arrested by Kansas City officers as a “muggles smoker”:“Of course I use it -- I’ve got to. I can’t play any more without it, and I know a hundred other musicians who are in the same fix. You see, when I’m ‘floating,’ I own my saxophone. I mean I can do anything with it. The notes seem to dance out of it -- no effort at all. I don’t have to worry about reading the music -- I’m music-crazy. Where do I get the stuff? In almost any low-class dance hall or night spot in the United States.”Marijuana, Assassin of Youth, Harry J. Anslinger, 1937
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Comment #2 posted by Read'Em The Riot Act on August 09, 2000 at 04:47:39 PT
Not only artists....
According to the peeps who made them, many of the computer break throughs were also helped along by judicious use of hallucinagenics :)
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Comment #1 posted by observer on August 08, 2000 at 22:18:23 PT
Marijuana Uses
Lester Grinspoon, M.D. writes:You and I are among the more than 70 million Americans who have used cannabis -- and possibly among the more than ten million who use it regularly. We know that people smoke marijuana not because they are driven by uncontrollable "Reefer Madness" craving, as some propaganda would lead us to believe, but because they have learned its value from experience. Yet almost all of the research, writing, political activity, and legislation devoted to marijuana has been concerned only with the question of whether it is harmful and how much harm it does. The only exception is the growing medica marijuana movement, but as encouraging as that movement is, it represents only one category of marijuana use. The rest are sometimes grouped under the genera heading of "recreational", but that is hardly an adequate description of, say, marijuana's capacity to catalyze ideas and insights, heighten the appreciation of music and art, or deepen emotional and sexual intimacy.These kinds of marijuana experiences, which I like to cal "enhancement", are often misunderstood and under-appreciated -- not only by non-users, but even by some users, especially young people who are interested mainly in promoting sociability and fun. Most of marijuana's powers of enhancement are not as immediately available as its capacity to lift mood or improve appetite and the taste of food. Some learning may be required, and one way to learn is through other people's experience. Some colleagues and I hope to promote this kind of learning by assembling an anthology of accounts of cannabis enhancement experiences. It is our hope that these stories will ultimately provide the basis for a book. Toward that end, we seek to identify contributors who are willing to share their knowledge of the uses of cannabis.
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