Many creative people seem to use alcohol and drugs. They may say that it helps them to be more creative than they are when they are sober. The fact is, that subjectively, they may feel more creative because drugs and alcohol limit your inhibitions. You just go ahead and do things. That’s part of the reason why people should never drink or take drugs and then drive. It simply isn’t safe. You take more chances.

Alcohol inhibits brain activity

A Harvard professor and neurologist researched the role of alcohol in creativity, and her finding isn’t encouraging for those who say they drink to be more creative. Alcohol actually reduces activity in your brain. You’re thinking more slowly, less clearly, and basically, you’re ‘dumbing down’.

But you don’t feel dumber, and you have fewer inhibitions, so you go for it and achieve a result. The truth is, you could probably have produced a much better result if you allowed your brain to work at its peak performance level. What’s holding you back isn’t a lack of alcohol-induced creativity; it’s your own habit of being critical of yourself that’s paralyzing you.

Pot makes you less creative

A test conducted in the Netherlands on pot smokers used a creative thinking process called ‘divergent thinking’ to test people’s creativity before and after smoking pot. Here’s what they found. Just about everybody said that they felt more creative, but they fared much worse at the creative thinking test after using pot!

So what really happened was a confidence trick. The pot caused the people in the test to think that they were more creative when in actual fact, they were much less creative!

Heroin and opiates jumble up your thoughts

Experts say that heroin brings our brains into a state that’s comparable to that experienced by people with a serious psychosis. So yes, you will have crazy thoughts, and if your idea of genius is madness, you’ll have some creative ones too, but the main contribution that heroin makes to creative people is what’s known as ‘disinhibition’.

So basically, you aren’t really more creative, but you are much less inhibited. That may sound pleasant enough, but the consequences of opiate use are well-known. Addiction happens quickly and getting off drugs is a slow and painful process for the addict – and those are the lucky ones.  It would be easy to make a list as long as your arm of famous people who have died as a result of heroin overdoses – and that’s just the famous ones!

Bod Dylan was a heroin addict at one point in his career. Then he quit. If heroin had been responsible for much of his creativity, that would have been the end of his career, but instead he went on to write some of his all-time best songs after quitting heroin. Did it make him more creative? Probably not!

Drugs and alcohol: a snare and a delusion for creatives

No matter which way you look at it, drugs and alcohol are not going to make you more creative than you already are. But creative people are often self-conscious when they use their talent and suffer from feelings of angst that what they’re doing isn’t going to be good enough.

They know that when they use substances they feel smarter and more creative, so they hit the bottle, smoke a joint, or resort to whatever their ‘favorite’ substance is. Then the delusion begins. The person is actually less creative than usual, but they’re less inhibited, they feel more confident and yes – they feel more creative. But it’s all smoke and mirrors. They aren’t any more creative than they were before their fix.

Now comes the big trap that lies in wait. Because the creative person thinks that they are more creative when using substances, they feel the need to use them whenever they are at work on a creative project. What if that’s every day? Or even several times a day? The path to addiction lies waiting for the unwary.

How can you boost creativity?

A real boost of creativity comes from a sober mind. If you’re feeling like you aren’t making progress, perhaps you are just being too self-critical. You could also have spent too much time sitting still. Research has shown that getting a bit of brisk exercise in the outdoors really does boost creativity – without making your brain dumb down or putting you at risk of addiction. Get up, take a walk, take a break and when you get back to what you were doing, just go for it! It really will be so much better than anything you achieve under the influence of drugs and alcohol.