Is There a Link Between Creativity and Addiction?
Addiction starts with genetics and the environment, but is triggered by stress
A drink of alcohol, any kind; "rails" of white powder; a pill prescribed by a pediatrician to assist with attention deficit disorder. Whatever the poison, addiction can take a powerful toll. Nor is it limited to drugs—food, sex and even death-defying stunts can exert the same pull.
But it seems to be a particular breed of person who succumbs to addiction, most recently exemplified by the late singer Amy Winehouse. She joins the "27 Club" of rock stars who died, via addictive behavior, too young—Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. Nor is it limited to the rock-and-roll lifestyle—Thomas de Quincey invented the modern addiction memoir with his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater in 1821. In fact, the list of addicts often overlaps with the giants of culture.
So is there a link between creativity and addiction? To find out, Scientific American spoke with neuroscientist David Linden of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and author of The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning and Gambling Feel So Good.