The news always seems to have stories about artists and musicians being arrested for drug possession or passing away as a result of substance abuse. It seems as though creative people are more likely to become addicted to or abuse drugs. Is there a link between creativity and addiction? Research suggests that there may be, though it is not as direct as one may think. Creative people may not be more likely to suffer from addiction than anyone else, but they may have certain traits that act as prerequisites for drug-using behaviors. Dr. David Linden of Johns Hopkins University Medical School, in a 2011 Scientific American interview with David Biello entitled Is There a Link Between Creativity and Addiction, explains, “I think the link is not between creativity and addiction per se. There is a link between addiction and things which are a prerequisite for creativity…. We know that 40 percent of a predisposition to addiction is genetically determined, via studies on heritability in families and twins. There’s no single addiction gene. We don’t even know all the genes involved in conferring addiction risk. But the ones we do know have to do with the signaling of the neurotransmitter dopamine for pleasure and reward.” Certain traits that correlate with addiction are also the traits that seem to spur creativity. Dr. Linden proposes that people suffering from addiction may suffer from low-functioning dopamine systems, meaning they want to feel pleasure more but do no enjoy it as much as others. Linden explains that low-functioning dopamine may be a double-edged sword: “If you carry those variants, you are more likely to be more risk-taking, novelty-seeking and compulsive. None of which are explicitly creative, but they are things that get to creativity. 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. These traits that come from having low dopamine function have an upside. These traits can contribute to people having great success in the world, like business leaders.” The link between creativity and addiction is not a direct line, but creative people may act in ways that make them more likely to fall into addiction.
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