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I'm Only Creative When I Smoke Smoker: Would you like to hear some of my poetry?
Thurgood Jenkins: Not really, no.
I'm Only Creative When I Smoke Smoker: You really should. "I have killed. I have helped kill. I have killed part of myself. I cannot change this. I... I must seek Buddha. I must seek Christ."
Thurgood Jenkins: You must seek therapy. But that's just where I would go with that.

In fiction, an artist, be they a writer, musician, or painter, may be addicted to a drug. One of the conflicts in the work is usually the artist's struggle to escape the addiction. This was probably Truth in Television before it entered television, so it's probably just a stereotype that has come about from real-life artists using drugs.

See also Mad Artist, Junkie Prophet, and (if only because it finishes off the triangle) Mad Oracle. An artist on prescription drugs might go the other way and decide No Medication for Me.

Quirky Work is when viewers assume this of a particularly bizarre work.


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    Film — Live-Action 
  • 24-Hour Party People. Happy Mondays, who start as an ecstasy fueled dance band, and have a Descent into Addiction with heroin and later crack. From their inception, a man just called Bez is an inseparable part of the band, dancing and playing maracas on stage, and providing them with drugs off stage.
    Tony Wilson: Every band needs its own special chemistry. And Bez was a very good chemist.
  • Jude in Across The Universe smokes marijuana, but it doesn't seem to be a huge conflict.
    • Possibly a nod to rumors that The Beatles were high when they wrote their songs, as Jude creates a masterpiece while high.
  • The author in Stranger Than Fiction is addicted to cigarettes.
  • The movie Half Baked has the "I'm Only Creative When I Smoke Smoker", who believes she needs to smoke marijuana to be creative.
  • In Parking (1985), Eurydice uses drugs to fuel her creative endeavors, which ultimately leads to her death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Charlie Pace from Lost is addicted to heroin. It's heavily implied that his band's Sophomore Slump and eventual breakup stemmed from this.
  • Isaac Mendez in Heroes is this and/or a Junkie Prophet. He's perfectly capable of painting the future without heroin, but using the drug does sort of give him a boost to his power.
    • Although when he discovered his powers, he was unaware he could paint the future without drugs. It was only after Eden McCain and HRG took him away and weaned him off heroin that he found out he could use his powers without, erm, "assistance".
  • Resident Intellectual Paul Kinsey on Mad Men claims to get most of his ideas from "Mary Jane." The one time we actually get to see this in action (in Season 2), Peggy is the only one who actually comes up with anything.
    • That entire plotline, especially the bit where she walks into the room and says, "My name is Peggy Olson and I'm here to smoke some marijuana."
    • Later, in Season 5, the Creative team smokes so much weed in the middle of the office that people joke about it.
      Don [walking into the Creative lounge] I smell creativity!
    • Subverted to the point of Dark Comedy in an episode where the people in the office are forced to work over the weekend on an important account and a doctor gives them 'vitamin shots' to give them the energy they will need. The shots turn out to be speed and the office quickly descends into madness. People get injured, Harry has sex with an underage girl, very little actual work gets done and the creative output of the entire weekend ends up being mostly gibberish.
  • In the backstory of Elementary, Sherlock was a recreational drug user who liked to use drugs to keep his mind focused when solving cases. However, one case became very personal to him and he started using more and more drugs in an attempt to solve it. This ended up having the opposite effect and his deductive skills took a nosedive. He was taken off the case and subsequently became a junkie. When the series starts, he has finally managed to get clean, and maintaining his sobriety is a big part of the show.

    Video Games 
  • Transistor: Purge()'s file on Maximilias Darzi's Dependencies section, that is, drug dependencies:
    In private Mr. Darzi suffered from certain dependencies he believed were the source of his talent, or rather the source of his inspiration. Unfortunately, he was correct in this assessment.

    Visual Novel 
  • Katawa Shoujo has the arm-less artist Rin Tezuka, who starts smoking with her boyfriend (and Player Character) Hisao when she fails to find enough inspiration for her art. It's a sign of her mounting stress as she is under pressure to make art for an upcoming exhibition and in turn of her deteriorating mental state.

    Western Animation 
  • The Smurfs (1981) episode "The Lure Of The Orb" has a magic orb that's supposed to give heightened inspiration to whoever touches it, but in reality only gives a temporary boost of energy that leaves the user drained and addicted to its power. Poet was the first to use the orb in order to complete his spring pageant poem, from which he was able to write pages of verses, but after he was freed from the effects of the orb, Poet read what he wrote and was astonished by how the quality of his writing had suffered because of the orb. (Other users of the orb — Painter, Harmony, Farmer, and Handy — also realized that the quality of their work had suffered because of their addiction to the orb's magic.) He ends up scrapping the overly-long drug-created poem and writes a very short poem about how to deal with his problems, taking no more than an hour to create it before the pageant starts.
  • Parodied on The Simpsons episode "Round Midnight". Blues singer Bleeding Gums Murphy's addiction is buying Faberge eggs.
  • One episode of Family Guy had Brian taking Adderall under the belief the energy it gave him made him a better writer. It isn't until he tries pitching what he wrote to George R.R. Martin that he realizes what he wrote was just a convoluted Cliché Storm, because as George tells him the drugs didn't make him write well, just a lot.
    • "Deep Throats" had Peter and Lois smoking pot for "inspiration" for a talent show. What actually happens is that they get too stoned to write anything, let alone perform.

    Real Life 
  • Ray Charles was addicted to heroin.
  • Jack London was an alcoholic and eventually committed suicide.
  • Take a rock star. Any rock star.
  • The Beatles were often high during or in the near vicinity of creative endeavors. They used stimulants while they were in Hamburg so they could stay awake during ridiculously long sets, and occasionally dabbled in other substances (including a couple of brushes with pot). After Bob Dylan offered the four of them pot under the mistaken notion that they were regular users (due to a miscommunication of all things...), they started smoking it incessantly. By all accounts, they were constantly stoned while filming Help!. In the spring of 1965 John Lennon and George Harrison were introduced to acid by their dentist, who spiked their coffee with the stuff one night, an incident memorialized in the song "Doctor Robert"; Ringo Starr followed shortly thereafter. By their second trip to America, they were fairly regular trippers (there's a famous story about how Peter Fonda ruined their trip at a party they were throwing at their rental house in Los Angeles, which got turned into "She Said She Said" on Revolver). Paul McCartney also took it up, but not until around Sgt. Pepper, and he gave it up right before telling the press he used to take it... <sigh> John in particular loved LSD (he admitted to having written "I Am The Walrus" at least partially on two separate acid trips). At least two of Paul's songs ("Got To Get You Into My Life" and "Fixing a Hole") are most definitely about pot — the former by Paul's admission, the latter because it's obvious; and odds are, any song from that era by Paul that looks like it's about pot is.
    • John Lennon was addicted to heroin for a while; he wrote the song "Cold Turkey" about his withdrawal symptoms. It was released as a solo work because Paul McCartney didn't want to touch or get credit for it. (Pity, it's one of John's better works.)
  • Having mentioned Bob Dylan, we would be remiss not to mention that when he wrote "Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35," he was not talking about an ancient form of capital punishment.
    • Flip-Flop of God seems to indicate that it actually might, as in a couple of interviews, Dylan recalls reading about Islamic stoning of women in a paper just before writing the song. On the other hand, he was stoned during the recording of the song (that giggle!), and of course Dylan is notorious for not exactly being forthright about his creative process, so who knows?
    • Dylan has always been a bit cagey about his intoxicant use. As one writer put it, his main drug of choice has always been alcohol. He claimed in an interview that he briefly was addicted to heroin after arriving in New York, but he may have been making that up (in the same interview he claimed he also worked as a hustler in that period). We know he was an enthusiastic pot smoker during his folk years, and one reporter swears to God that Dylan once barged into Willie Nelson's tour bus with a gigantic blunt while the reporter was interviewing Nelson sometime in the 1990s or early 2000s. Reliable reports have him trying LSD a few times when it was still legal (around 1964), but comments he's made over the years indicate he wasn't all that impressed with it. He used amphetamines a lot in the 1965-66 period. Beyond that, it's all conjecture.
  • Stephen King was addicted to alcohol, cocaine, and prescription drugs. He claims to have no memory of having written Cujo.
  • Dave Brock of space-rock band Hawkwind once claimed that he always mixed the band's albums while he was stoned. Given the results, it's entirely plausible.
    • Hawkwind also spawned the Heavy Metal icons Motörhead. Motorhead being a slang term for an amphetamine addict.
      • It's also worth mentioning Lemmy left Hawkwind to start Motorhead because he was arrested when customs mistook his speed for crystal meth.
      • In Lemmy's own words, he was kicked out for "using the wrong drugs".
  • Most of the members of Metallica have struggled with alcoholism at some point, to the point where the band was nicknamed "Alcoholica" by some fans. In particular, Dave Mustaine, whose alcoholism and violent behaviour when he was drunk were the big factors in his being fired from the band, and James, who had to undergo rehab for his issues with it.
    Dave: When we would drink, they would get really silly and I would get really violent. And violent people and silly people don't mix when they're inebriated.
    • After being fired from Metallica, Mustaine would found Megadeth, which had the same problem.
  • X Japan was for much of The '80s and The '90s (and still is to some degree) the Japanese equivalent of Alcoholica. Everyone in the band except for vocalist Toshi (who Can't Hold His Liquor, which was and is for him a case of Blessed with Suck), was The Alcoholic or at the very least engaged in heavy alcohol abuse. As of The New '10s according to both's own words in interviews and similar, Pata is still an uncontrolled alcoholic who doesn't really care about not drinking and Yoshiki is an alcoholic using moderation management/harm reduction ordered by his doctor to some success but still occasionally going Off the Wagon, and Heath, Sugizo, and Toshi don't seem to have major, noticeable, documentable problems with alcohol or drugs, despite some rumors. That said, the band is one of the founding bands of Visual Kei, Yoshiki is a virtuoso pianist and one of the world's top drummers even outside his genre, at least before he sustained his injuries, and Pata is a literal Drunken Master on guitar whose skills, though underrated, are some of the best in Visual Kei.
    • Both of the members of X Japan that died had major drug problems, including alcoholism:
      • hide was The Alcoholic but around 1991 with the death of a relative, his drinking became even more intense, to the point that even Taiji and Pata expressed concern for his drinking. Unfortunately, no one's concern or attempts to help seemed to be effective (and plenty of people just did nothing or encouraged him, because his drinking and other drug use did feed his artistic output), and hide died from a drunken attempt at hanging himself in 1998. According to the coroner who examined his body, he had a level of alcohol that was approaching lethal alcohol poisoning in and of itself, along with methamphetamine.
      • Taiji was The Alcoholic and on occasion The Stoner, and, as it became obvious, a stimulant addict to cocaine and the amphetamine-class stimulants. Both heavily influenced much of his solo work (especially the D.T.R. lyrics) and also ruined his life - spending money on alcohol and other drugs, and the side effects of them on his mental illnesses is what caused the Creator Breakdown from 1993-1998, and likely his drug use played a part in the airplane fight which put him in jail where he was killed.
  • BUCK-TICK, another one of the founding bands of Visual Kei, also fits this trope for at least one member. Co-founder Hisashi Imai was busted for LSD in the late eighties. Many of their songs are about intoxication or its effects... Speed, Heroin, Machine, Jonathan Jet-Coaster, Candy, My Fuckin Valentine....
  • Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. To say nothing of the rest of the band, he definitely used various drugs. And then they all sobered up and made Good News For People Who Love Bad News and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The former is generally considered excellent (and quite bizarre), while the latter is generally considered merely very good and less bizarre (although some blame it on the change in drummer). Their earlier work is much different from those two releases, the influence of drugs is very clear on The Moon & Antarctica. Incidentally, Good News contained a song about...
  • Charles Bukowski, who was a fairly steady drinker throughout his life and still rates as one of America's top poets of the 20th century.
  • William S. Burroughs spent the first half of his life as a drug addict and the second half as a writer (and drug addict).
  • The Korean painter Ohwon, whose life was the topic of Drunk on Women and Poetry, was a notorious drunk. Much of his oeuvre was allegedly done while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Older Than Print: The Tang Dynasty-era (8th century) Chinese poet Li Bai (perhaps better known as Li Po in the West) was famous for his alcoholism, to the point where many if not most of his poems are in some way about drinking and drunkenness. He supposedly died during a drinking session in a rowboat on a lake, where he became enamored of the reflection of the moon on the water and drowned trying to hug it.note  He is considered to be one of the finest poets (if not the finest) in the history of Chinese literature, which is saying something (considering how much literature China has produced in its 3,500+ years of existence as a civilization).
    Clear wine was once called a Saint,
    Thick wine was once called a Sage.
    Of Saint and Sage I have long quaffed deep,
    What need for me to study the sutras?
    At the third cup I penetrate the Tao,
    At the full gallon Nature and I are one.
    —Li Bai, "Drinking alone by moonlight". To give an idea of how much he drank, Chinese rice wine is about 18-25% ABV.
  • Charlie Parker, probably the biggest name to EVER appear in jazz, took more drugs than Keith Richards. When he died, the coroner estimated him, on the degradation of his body, to be in his sixties; he was thirty-four.
  • Subverted by Lou Reed: Although he certainly took lots of drugs, heroin was not one of them. However, he wrote and sung several songs about heroin (including one titled "Heroin"), and apparently some fans started using after hearing these songs, much to his disgust.
    • He did use heroin very rarely, but he was never addicted to it. Amphetamines, on the other hand...
  • Author and counterculture figure Ken Kesey was a typical clean-cut, all-American jock... until he discovered LSD as a paid test subject in college. His first book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, was written while he worked night shifts at the local VA hospital's psych ward (a job he first took so he could access more LSD and other drugs), stoned out of his mind. His second novel, Sometimes A Great Notion, was written on acid/pot/speed binges that would last thirty hours at a time. And then there was the bus...
  • Syd Barrett was a heavy user of LSD. Unfortunately in his case, this led to a permanent Creator Breakdown and his career as a musician was essentially over by the time he turned 25.
    • Though according to Roger Waters, Syd was the only band member who was on anything harder than caffeine.
      • Then again; The other Floyd Members did occasionally enjoy pot and alcohol. David Gilmour may have even dabbled with coke in The '80s.
  • Kurt Cobain of Nirvana used heroin a lot. It was at least partially self-medication for an unspecified stomach condition.
  • John Frusciante's heroin use during the 90s led to all his teeth falling out, voices in his head, and the album Smile From The Streets You Hold which is considered his Creator Breakdown. Luckily, he got better.
  • Children's book author Robert Munsch was addicted to cocaine and alcohol.
  • Brian Wilson first took LSD with a friend in 1964 - after some initial anxiety, he sat down and played what would eventually become California Girls - call it coincidence, but The Beach Boys' music started to get more interesting and complex around this time.
    • Unfortunately, Brian was a Creator Breakdown just waiting for a place to happen, and his obsessive use of acid is believed to have exacerbated it.
      • Brian did later note what starts as a tool can become a crutch and then a great weight.
  • Hunter S. Thompson made overindulgence in drugs—many drugs—a large part of his public image, and by all accounts required amphetamines and alcohol to write in his trademark style (see, e.g., "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved," written while constantly soused on bourbon and other booze). While the frequency is much debated, he definitely played with other substances, was a (peripheral) part of the acid culture of the Bay Area in the 1960s, and was fond of marijuana in his more relaxed moments.
  • Subverted by Robert Louis Stevenson - he happened to have been given drugs when suffering from a severe chest infection which simply had the side-effect of inducing hallucinations and convulsions; this inspired him to write Jekyll & Hyde- not that he hallucinated the story as such, but he was fascinated later by how the drugs had made him feel like a separate personality.
  • Eric Clapton was becoming addicted to heroin when he recorded what is generally regarded as his best album, Derek & the Dominos' Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. However, this is also something of a subversion as he wasted the next couple of years until he cleaned up.
  • Miles Davis was addicted to drugs at several points of his career. This was also a large part of the reason that he didn't release anything in the late '70s.
  • James Taylor, of all people, was a heroin addict for a pretty long time.
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas de Quincey, and most of the Romantic poets were known for their indulgence in the "hip" drugs of the day, from brandy and port to opium to laudanum (opium dissolved in liquor) to nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Coleridge wrote "Kubla Khan", after an opium trip and De Quincey wrote Confessions of an English Opium Eater as an anti-drug PSA after he finally sobered up. Unfortunately, the beatific descriptions of the visions and sensations produced by opium found in the book were responsible for attracting a huge number of people to try the drug.
  • Elton John was addicted to cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol (along with suffering through bulimia and sex addiction) from 1975 through entering a Chicago rehabilitation center (the only one he found that specialized in conquering all of his addictions at once) in 1990 to seek treatment. He claims that working on his first post-rehab album The One was difficult at first as he was without the crutch of chemical dependency for the first time in ages.
  • Spoony was stoned on painkillers following major dental surgery for his review of the infamous E.T. game; this is noted in the review itself, as it was basically a challenge from fans who wanted to see what kind of video he would turn out while in extreme pain and high. Discussing it later, he admits he not only has no memory of filming the review, he has no idea how he got a specific shot that should've been impossible without more equipment or help, and he somehow did the editing work in a fraction of the time he usually takes.
  • Philip K. Dick wrote most of his fiction under the influence of drugs, though, despite how often hallucinogens appear in his work, he made little if any use of LSD or other psychedelic drugs. He mostly took amphetamines, and it wasn't for inspiration so much as energy: he was paid so little for each novel that he sometimes had to write as many as five or six a year, as well as numerous short stories, just to pay his bills, a schedule he couldn't keep up without powerful stimulants.
  • Similarly to Dick's example, famous Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdősnote  has always attributed his scientific success to amphetamines, which he used for much of his life. Having gone sober on a dare once, the man then complained that while he was perfectly okay otherwise, without speed he couldn't think about mathematics at all. On completing the wager, he is said to have quipped, "You just set back mathematics a month," and went right back to his habit.
  • Just about any major popular music scene has had a drug attached to it: LSD and marijuana for Psychedelic Rock, cocaine for disco, ecstasy for Electronic Music, and heroin for Grunge.
  • According to John Houseman's memoirs, Raymond Chandler tried to invoke this when he ran into "writer's block" (likely a polite euphemism for military officials and/or his bosses telling him he couldn't make a serviceman the murderer) on The Blue Dahlia, and succeeded. He (re)wrote the mystery's resolution over eight days of being blind drunk (on Paramount's dime!) and eating no solid food whatsoever, and the screenplay proceeded to get nominated for an Oscar. That said, these days a lot of fans aren't quite willing to take the story at face value.
  • Takeshi Shudō, head writer of Pokémon: The Series during its first five years, drank heavily and frequently got high on tranquilizers while writing for the series. This unfortunately was a major factor in his death: excess alcohol use is a known risk factor for spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhages, such as the one Shudō died from in 2010.
  • Actress and screenwriter Zoë Lund, best known for her collaborations with director Abel Ferrara, was addicted to heroin, openly spoke about her struggles with the substance, and advocated its legalization. She eventually managed to kick the habit upon her move to Paris in 1997, only to become addicted to cocaine instead and die two years later from an overdose.
  • David Bowie was a notoriously heavy cocaine user during the first half of the 1970s, with much of his work during that period being born out of it. Station to Station in particular came directly from his addiction hitting a tipping point, explicitly referencing his and Iggy Pop's drug trips on at least two songs. In the years since its release, he openly and repeatedly admitted that he remembered almost nothing about the album's production, describing the record as "a piece of work by an entirely different person."