From 19th century French impressionists to current-day “rockers,” it has always been a loosely held belief that creative genius encompasses (even embraces) substance use. Iain Smith, psychiatrist and addiction consultant at Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow, recently reported that substance use impedes artistic creativity. He stated, “The idea that drugs and alcohol give artists unique insights and powerful experiences is an illusion.”
Speaking at the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Edinburgh, Smith said the idea that substance use fuels the creative process is a dangerous myth. In his study of the evidence, Smith concluded that many famous artists throughout the ages—believed to produce great art, literature, and music while under the influence—actually generated their most brilliant works stone, cold sober. He added that while many artists historically self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to cope with their emotions, the artistic process is not enhanced by the abuse of substances.
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