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Addiction Among Artists

Michael Kaliszewski, PhD
Michael Kaliszewski, PhD
Dr. Michael Kaliszewski is a freelance science writer with over 15 years of experience as a research scientist in both academia and industry.

Addiction within the arts community is commonly portrayed in the media, but how prevalent is it and what are the causes? Here’s the real facts surrounding addiction among artists.

How Prevalent is Addiction Among Artists?

It is difficult to say exactly what percentage of artists suffer from addiction, as there is a lack of substance abuse prevalence data specific to artists. We can, however, get a good indication of how artists are affected by addiction by looking at the arts and entertainment industry as a whole.

A 2015 report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes the rates of substance use and abuse within several different industry categories, including arts and entertainment.1 A large problem that plagues the arts industry as reported by the study is excessive alcohol use. Over one tenth of the population reports to having consumed alcohol in excess within any given month. Illicit drug use statistics slightly outpace the alcohol, with 13.7% of the population reporting use within a month’s time. Over the course of a year, between both illicit drug use and heavy alcohol consumption, total substance use disorders reported at 12.9% for the industry, the 3rd highest of all industries included within the study.

We can also look at how substance abuse affects high-profile artists in comparison to other famous individuals. A 2016 study published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy investigated almost 300 drug-related celebrity deaths (occurring between 1970 and 2015) and found that the vast majority of those who died from drugs were either musicians (38.6%) or actors (23.2%). Other professions of celebrities from this study included writers and other artists.2

Are Artists at an Increased Risk for Addiction?

Although the previously discussed data may indicate that artists are more likely to suffer from substance abuse compared to the rest of the population, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, there is no scientific evidence of a direct link between artistic creativity and addiction.

What we do know, confirmed by studies in families and twins, is that about half of one’s predisposition to addiction is determined by genetic makeup.3 In fact, a relative with a substance use disorder is one of the most important risk factors for the development of a substance use disorder in any individual. We do not know every genetic risk factor for addiction, but the genes we do know involve dopamine signaling in the pleasure and reward pathways of the brain.4

Environmental factors also contribute to the risk for addiction. These can include:5

  • Parental monitoring
  • Peer pressure
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Type of substance
  • Stress

Treatment Options for Rehab

Addiction is a serious issue within the arts. Far too often we hear about brilliant musicians, singers, actors, and writers being lost to their struggles with drugs and alcohol. Artists can benefit from drug rehab services at private treatment facilities that offer confidentiality and personalized care. Board-certified addiction specialists at these centers understand the unique struggles of artists battling substance abuse and can help to implement a personalized treatment plan that will return these individuals to their healthy, creative selves.

Sources

  1. Bush, D.M., & Lipari, R.N. (2015). Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder by Industry.
  2. Just, J.M., Bleckwenn, M., Schnakenberg, R., Skatulla, P., & Weckbecker, K. (2016). Drug-related celebrity deaths: A cross-sectional study. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 11(1), 40.
  3. Ducci, F. & Goldman, D. (2008). Genetic approaches to addiction: genes and alcohol. Addiction, 103(9), 1414-1428.
  4. Biello, D. (2011). Is There a Link Between Creativity and Addiction?
  5. Vink, J.M. (2016). Genetics of Addiction: Future Focus on Gene × Environment Interaction? Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 77(5), 684-687.
Last Updated on March 15, 2022
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Michael Kaliszewski, PhD
Michael Kaliszewski, PhD
Dr. Michael Kaliszewski is a freelance science writer with over 15 years of experience as a research scientist in both academia and industry.
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