30/08/2008

Why Do Artists Take So Many Drugs?

I've never seen any hard stats, but I think we can agree that artists, and maybe rock musicians in particular, take more drugs, both legal and illegal, than the average person. Why? A few ideas:

1. Because they can, pt. 1: If you're a rock musician, you don't have to get up at six in the morning. Hence, getting hammered the night before is not a problem.

2. Because they can, pt. 2: Almost all artists are freelancers; they don't have a boss to notice their bad breath the next day. More generally, many artists, given the way that they work, have very little social control if they don't want to have it.

3. Because they can, pt. 3: Some artists only work very short hours. I've been told that Horst Janssen, who arguably produced the greatest drawings in the history of art, got up in the morning, worked for two hours, and spent the rest of the day getting drunk.

4. Because they can, pt. 4: Some pieces of art can be produced while under the influence. Charles Bukowski used to write at night, while drinking. That wouldn't work if you're doing accounting.

5. Drug experiences may even inspire works of art. An example is the Beatles' LSD-inspired "She Said, She Said". (No, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is not about LSD.) This can be a motivation for taking drugs. (Not that I'm advocating it!)

6. A psychological tendency to take risks: Embarking on an artistic career is risky. So is taking drugs.

7. Artists often see themselves as apart from, or even opposed to, mainstream society. Hence, no need to obey its norms.

8. What's more, taking drugs is almost part of the job description. A friend of mine once wondered why fuckedupness or whatever you want to call it is valued so much in the rock music scene. I think the answer is that many people would like to lead the wild life but that's not feasible (cf. points 1-4) or they don't dare (cf. point 6).

9. Some art (e.g., most punk rock) is inspired by anger. Anger may also inspire drug use, if only because it's an anti-mainstream lifestyle choice (see above).

10. On average, artists get more out of taking drugs than other people. Not that I have any evidence for this, but I've long had this theory that the more interesting your mind is, the more drugs will do for you. Artists tend to have more interesting minds than your average person.

(The post that inspired this post)

3 comments:

John Althouse Cohen said...

Thanks for the link...

All good theories, but I especially like #6. The more obvious responses to this question mostly have to do with a straightforward drugs-to-art causation: drugs inspire art. #6 is an example of a less obvious, but very plausible, kind of explanation: there may be an invisible joint cause (a certain personality type) of both of the things we can see (art and drugs).

Krissy said...

Very interesting pts but the one, i assumed to be #1.....MONEY!!! I know if i (being an lover of most any drug i've ever tried) have always thought, being a well paid artist..would kill me! I know this!!! I have to settle for buying when i can afford it...I also write, paint and play guitar...always felt my artistic ability went nicely with some mind altering high..

keith said...

I would say the main reason is most artists have bipolar disorder(manic depressive) a mood disorder which has been linked with creativity, using drugs can be a way of self medicating these extreme moods.