Highly intelligent, creative people have a reputation for succumbing to addiction. But is it true that creative people are more likely to need inpatient drug treatment? Studies have shown that creativity and high intelligence do make people more prone to addiction. However, it may not be that there’s a link between creativity and addiction, so much as it’s that the genetic factors that lead to creativity and high intelligence are the same factors that make people prone to drug and alcohol addiction.
The History of Creativity and Addiction
Throughout history, intelligent and creative types have been known for their drug and alcohol abuse. Sigmund Freud, the genius who founded modern psychology, was known for his cocaine addiction. Francis Crick, the scientist who discovered the molecular structure of DNA, was later revealed to have been using LSD at the time. Even ground-breaking technology innovators Bill Gates and Steve Jobs experimented with LSD when they were younger. No less than five American writers who have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature were also alcoholics. Edgar Allen Poe, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and Anne Lamotte and Tennessee Williams all suffered from addiction. For many of these people, inpatient drug treatment wasn’t available; for others, it was, but ultimately didn’t save their lives.
Why Are Creative and Intelligent People Prone to Needing Inpatient Drug Treatment?
One cohort study from researchers at Cardiff University in the UK followed thousands of English people born in April 1970. Specifically, the researchers looked for relationships between IQ at ages five and 10, and subsequent history of drug use in the study participants. They found a strong link between a higher childhood IQ and adult drug use, especially in women. Researchers speculate that perhaps it’s because these more intelligent people use drugs to self-medicate for the trauma caused by peer taunting and teasing. Alternatively, they speculate that intelligent people may be more likely to wind up in need of inpatient drug treatment because they have a stronger need for the stimulation and novel experiences that drug and alcohol abuse seem to offer.
Neuroscientist David Linden, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, spoke to Scientific American about the link between creativity and addiction. He pointed out that people who wind up in need of inpatient drug treatment for addiction don’t feel pleasure more strongly than non-addicts; in fact, they have a blunted dopamine response that makes them less likely to feel pleasure in response to drug and alcohol abuse. People who have this low-functioning dopamine system are more likely to seek novelty, take risks and behave compulsively.
While none of these personality traits are indicative of creativity, per se, they are traits that spur creativity. Compulsive, risk-taking people are more likely to go out on a limb with a creative idea, and are more motivated to do what it takes to see their ideas succeed. While these traits might make a person more vulnerable to needing inpatient drug treatment for addiction, they have an upside in that they also make people more successful in corporate and creative spheres.
There’s another reason why people who have low-functioning dopamine systems may be more likely to need inpatient drug treatment at some point. These people are more socially desirable than people with high-functioning dopamine systems. That’s because risk-taking, novelty-seeking people are charismatic. They’re more likely to be in-demand socially and are more likely to be exposed to drugs and alcohol in social situations. Social use of drugs and alcohol can quickly turn to addiction if a person’s use of substances transitions into a coping behavior, or if that person is particularly prone to addiction already.
The good news is, for creative and intelligent people, entering addiction recovery doesn’t have to compromise these underlying traits. As they say, you can’t get blood from a stone. Creativity and high intelligence will remain even if the recovering addict never to touches drugs or alcohol for the rest of his or her life.
If you know highly creative or intelligent person in need of inpatient drug treatment, FHE Health can help. We offer personalized, state-of-the-art drug and alcohol addiction treatment in a safe and comfortable environment.
Call us today at 844-299-0618 to learn more about our facility and our programs.