Drugs and the Creative Process

‘In Xanadu did Kubla Khan. A stately pleasure-dome decree…’. It’s said that Samuel Taylor Coleridge composed his classic poem whilst under the influence of Laudanum (an alcoholic tincture of Opium). Similarly such great names as Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron had ongoing ‘relationships’ with the same. What was once considered acceptable behaviour amongst the creative is now legislated against, often for good reason, but many of us today start our daily routine with our drug of choice, i.e. coffee. Narcotics have had a profound influence on the creative mind across the centuries and will, no doubt, continue to do so in the future. Consider why the creative mind sometimes requires or even craves external stimulus and why we are frequently willing to ignore drug usage among the creative when enjoying the fruits of their labour.

  • You bring up an interesting topic. I myself enjoy caffeine, I use it as a tool. Likewise, other substances such as, LSD, DMT or psilocybin mushroom are sometimes used as creative tools. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for example used LSD as a creative tool. Drug use today is looked down upon. I think that some substances can be used to help with art but within the right context and environment. – LucaTatulli 2 years ago
  • Being more specific would be useful - are you asking about narcotics/opiates only, or including psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, or stimulants such as methamphetamines, not to mention other classes of substances? What exactly do you mean by 'drug usage'?? – Sarah Pearce 2 years ago
  • Like Sarah Pearce, I was left wondering what the focus of the essay might be: all drugs? narcotics? stimulants? I would also encourage anyone who takes up this topic to consider the roles of drugs (esp. stimulants and hallucinogens) in the writings of the Beats. – JamesBKelley 2 years ago
  • I have so many questions. Are you considering alcohol as a 'drug'? If so, I don't think we 'ignore' alcohol usage amongst creatives. I would also question using the word 'ignore' - why must we ignore drug usage? The question speaks of evident bias against 'drugs' (however you are defining this term) - I suggest that the more interesting questions revolve around the role of various substances in the evolution of human culture and creativity... – Sarah Pearce 2 years ago
  • So first thought I have is that you are working off an assumption that creative types DO crave the stimuli of drugs. If you wanted to work off of that assumption you would need to get peer reviewed research and even then its a bit of a shaky premise. However I feel like your article actually has a different and more reasonable topic hidden in the layers. A lot of the people you mentioned fell into the Romantic period and the Victorian period of literature. So maybe instead of talking about drug usage in all creative types, you could instead discuss the influence of narcotics on Romantic and Victorian literature. – huntingkat18 2 years ago

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