Psychologist and creativity coach/author Eric Maisel, PhD says “The artist is often a drug and alcohol abuser.
“The challenge for the creative artist stirred by [their] work and dream is to maintain mood equilibrium without resorting to mood-altering drugs. The social environment of the artist makes this challenge doubly difficult.” [From article Counseling Artists: The Twelve Challenges of the Artist, The California Therapist, May/June 1990.]
Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst of “Spider-Man 3″ are both dynamic and accomplished actors – and drug users, like many other creative and talented people have been.
Tobey Maguire revealed he has been going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for more than a third of his life, starting when he was 19. “I have an addictive nature,” he says, “an obsessive-compulsive nature – well, I don’t know that’s what it is clinically. But I go to addictive extremes, and before I got sober, that became routine.”
Kirsten Dunst admits to smoking marijuana and trying other drugs. She says, “I drink moderately.. I do like weed. I have a different outlook on marijuana than America does. My best friend Sasha’s dad was Carl Sagan, the astronomer. He was the biggest pot smoker in the world and he was a genius.
“I’ve never been a major smoker, but I think America’s view on weed is ridiculous. I mean, are you kidding me? If everyone smoked weed, the world would be a better place. I’m not talking about being stoned all day, though. I think if it’s not used properly, it can hamper your creativity and close you up inside.”
Many of us at some time use or even abuse substances, or engage in other self-harming behavior.
For example, according to surveys, at least 1 in 10 adult Americans has a serious alcohol problem (Institute of Medicine); around twenty percent of both men and women are smokers (Centers for Disease Control), and approximately 1 in 35 over age 12 is an illicit drug user (Institute of Medicine).
Among the many artists who have used drugs, alcohol or other substances are Aldous Huxley, Edgar Allen Poe, Dostoevsky, Allen Ginsberg, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, and Tennessee Williams; composers Beethoven and Musorgski.
Also actors Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tatum O’Neal, Johnny Depp, Ed Harris, Michael J. Fox, and Carrie Fisher, among many others.
Maybe one reason so many intense and sensitive people like actors and other artists use drugs and alcohol is to self-medicate, to deal with a rich inner life that fuels their creative work, but can also be an experience of painful inner turmoil. But using also risks addiction.