Every now and then in the arts (some arts more than others), you see artists who swear that they are more creative under the influence of drugs then while 'straight'. Favorites range from the psychedelics enjoyed by visual artists to the headbanger's cocktail of speed and alcohol (Motorhead). Reading Stephen King's On Writing, he mentions that he could not even remember writing some of his books he was that high - I think Misery comes to mind (he speculates the writer in the story was actually himself, held prisoner by his addiction). Its not just illegal drugs either. David Gemmell once related how he had tried to give up smoking, but looked at what he was writing, realized it was crap then started smoking again. In the end he died of heart failure at 57, and I guess the smoking would have had no small part in his untimely death.
I have always been suspicious of these claims, and I guess I have come out pretty much strongly on the other side of the argument -- that you will be more creative the more healthy and drug FREE you are. I think what often happens is that artists will be such long term users that they become functional addicts, and when they try to quit they actually do find their performance dropping. But this is just a short-term effect. If they persevere they will find themselves more creative than ever.
One of the odd things I do is read musician's autobiographies. A recent one was Eric Clapton. In it he rattles off a series of famous recordings and concert events where he was completely off his head either on dope (heroin) or alcohol or both. Even as an Eric Clapton fan some of his playing on these latter records sounded like shite to me. Not saying I did not enjoy them, just that I got so frustrated he could not lift his game. When I hear something like that, I can't help but feel cheated. How much damn better could that guy have been if he wasn't hiding in a bottle?
So what do you think? Is there some truth to the assertion that drugs enhance creativity? Or is that just the seductive reasoning of an addict?