From Ernest Hemingway to Amy Winehouse, it seems as though there is a strong link between creative, talented people and the disease of addiction. . It seems that every week we hear about another musician or artist struggling with the disease, and it would not be entirely incorrect to assume that creative people are more likely to suffer from addiction. However, the link may not be as direct as one would assume. Creative people struggling with addiction is not a new phenomenon. Edgar Allan Poe was well known to struggle with the disease, as was Charles Baudelaire, Thomas de Quincey, and countless other writers and poets throughout history. However, creativity is not necessarily a precursor to addiction. However, there may be similar factors that contribute to both addiction and creativity. Neuroscientist David Linden of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was interviewed about the subject in a 2011 Scientific American article by David Biello entitled Is There a Link Between Creativity and Addiction? Linden puts forth a theory that addiction may be influenced by a low-functioning dopamine system. Dopamine, often referred to as the “pleasure chemical”, has a strong influence on motivation and pleasure seeking. A person suffering from a low-functioning dopamine system is more likely to be “more risk-taking, novelty-seeking, and compulsive.” All these attributes may be factors that influence a person to use drugs and be more susceptible to addiction. Linden explained, “So novelty-seeking might be a spur to creativity. Risk-taking might lead you to go more out on a limb. If you’re compulsive, you might be more motivated to get your art, science idea or novel out into the world.” However, people with low-functioning dopamine systems are also less able to feel pleasure and may therefore seek it out in stronger ways like using drugs that create surges in dopamine. A person who is risk-taking and compulsive may also turn more quickly to drugs when faced with stress. Kurt Cobain, for example, regularly complained about the detriments of fame and may have turned to heroin as a way to mitigate the extreme stress he faced as a famous musician. However, creativity will not cause a person to use drugs. After all, there are a variety of other factors that play a role in influencing whether or not a person will use drugs or become addicted.
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