As far back as any sort of art has been produced, there is very often a strong connection that has been forged between said art and the use of drugs. Today there is much dispute as to what constitutes as ‘drugs’ and what lies outside the often debatable definition of the word itself. Several everyday occurrences and practices owe their initial fruition to the use of drugs, yet nowadays, due to strict regulations, the use of drugs is seen as taboo and often a crutch in relation to the artistic process.
However, though drug use has spelled tragedy to many modern prevalent artists, it has proven to be a powerful influence in the creation of some of the most revolutionary artistic movements, singular pieces, and personal transformations that have been recorded in the past many centuries.
In modern pop culture, the public is very aware of the use of drugs, mostly in modern musicians, and more recently with Hollywood celebrities. This is very much due to excessive media coverage, which has erupted in the most awful ways in the form of paparazzi and hyperbolic tabloid periodicals. This disturbing disruption of privacy has led to dramatic meltdowns of public figures within the past decade or so, often publicly and unfairly embarrassing those involved. Yet beyond these public humiliations there is much drug use that is often overlooked in all media outlets, sometimes with devastating results.
In the modern age there have been many instances where drugs have been used to enhance art. Dating back to the 60s and 70s, many musicians have used psychedelic substances to expand their minds and thus their art, creating a new and fascinating psychedelic movement, stretching the boundaries of classical musical expression to create something different to be perceived as something beyond the norm. The use of drugs in music have had a monumental impact on the music we hear today, shaping everything from the Beatles to Pink Floyd. Rock and roll would not be the same without the use of marijuana and basically other psychotropic in the book.
Drug use has also had an incredible influence on the pain reflected in music. Dating back to the days of early blues artists, artists have used drugs, namely opiates, not only to numb the pains of loss and heartbreak, but also to amplify those emotions that are often oppressed. With the aid of these drugs, these emotions are more easily accessed (as is with the use of alcohol), thus the music that comes from these drug-addled artists is often incredibly soulful and heartfelt, especially when listened to by people with similar addictions, as they often tap into those forgotten emotions in the same effect.
Back when drugs weren’t such a big deal (i.e., the 60s and 70s), the most prevalent artistic figure that openly used drugs was someone named Andy Warhol. With his revolutionary pop art movement and the creation of his Factory, he deified many unknown figures like Edie Sedgwick and Jean-Michel Basquiat, using their art or person as an avenue towards fame and fortune. These often primarily innocent artists were driven to fame and, in turn, madness and addiction, due to this man. Very often those who worked with Warhol were thrown into a destructive symbiotic relationship with the media mogul, for not only did they become severely addicted to the physical substances that Warhol was a prevalent advocate of, but they seemed to become addicted to the fame and fortune that he personified. Unlike with the drugs that they were hooked on, no luxury rehab treatment center can cure them of such an addiction. In the same effect, Warhol became likewise addicted to these disciples, until he unceremoniously tossed them aside as a heroin addict tosses aside the junk while trying to go cold turkey.
The use of drugs in context of the artistic process these days is baffling. In some effect it relates to the evolution of the body in conflict with that of the intangible mind. There are those who say that we as humans cannot access a majority of our intelligent brain. It almost seems that those who use these substances inexplicably open these previously unattainable areas of the mind that allow us to tap into forgotten emotions and conceptually esoteric perceptions of reality. Unfortunately the physical properties of these substances far surpass our corporal capabilities and often tragically take the lives of those who entertain the prospects afforded by the use of drugs. It is so often unfair that great art comes at such a great price, but without tragedy, there would almost be no place for the awesome beauty of this world that goes so often unappreciated.