There have only been 19 studies (6 of which were done in the 1970’s) that have effectively delved into the relationship between drug use and creativity.
Most of the studies found an association between creativity and psychoactive substance use but none of the studies could confirm this. What they did find was that drug use happens more frequently with people who are more “creative” but there’s no firm evidence that the creative people who tend to take drugs more frequently gain enhanced creativity.
It’s thought that it’s actually more likely that using drugs acts indirectly by enhancing sensitivity and there for experiences which can loosen your consciousness and have an influence on the creative process.Meaning not only will the person think they are more creative but it will actually change the art produced when on drugs, but on the other hand it might have a stabilizing or compensating effect for a more unstable creative process. One study found that the cartoonist Robert Crumb actually changed his illustration style while on LSD. Another study was done with musician Brian Wilson showed that his modification of musical style was connected to substance use. Though, it’s hard to measure a creative process due to the complexity and difference from person to person and personality type.
Research is looking into how we can utilize drugs, specifically psychoactive substances can be included in treatments for mental health disorders.
These cognitive enhancers, which can enhance or restore brain function with treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia. And with today’s current renaissance in psychedelic drug research and the growing interest in cognitive enhancing drugs, now may be the time to re-visit these studies with contemporary research methods.
But, until we can report on those findings to come…
Let’s talk about what drugs actually do to your brain and how they might affect your creativity.
- Dopamine is involved in regulation of movement, reward, and punishment, pleasure, energy. Drugs that affect feelings of pleasure, including Cocaine, Amphetamine, opiates, marijuana, heroin, and PCP can affect your levels of it.
- Epinephrine also is known as adrenaline is an excitatory neurotransmitter involved in arousal and alertness.
- Norepinephrine is involved in arousal and alertness, energy and feelings of pleasure and can be affected by stimulants.
- Serotonin is involved in the regulation of mood and impulsivity and affected by alcohol, hallucinogens, stimulants, and antidepressants.
- Acetylcholine Inhibitory neurotransmitter is involved in movement, memory function, motivation and sleep which can be affected by PCP and hallucinogens, Marijuana, Stimulants.
- GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) Inhibitory neurotransmitter involved in arousal, judgment, and impulsiveness and is affected by depressant drugs, and marijuana.
- Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter.
- Endorphins are substances involved in pain relief and reward/punishment triggered by opioids and depressants.