Throughout history, drug use has had a significant impact on various forms of art, from painting to music, literature, and film. Artists have used drugs as a means of altering their perceptions and inspiring creativity, resulting in some of the most iconic works of art in history. We will explore the roles and influences drug use has had on art, both currently and throughout history.


One of the most famous artists who used drugs was Vincent Van Gogh. He used absinthe, a psychoactive drink that contains thujone, a chemical compound that can cause hallucinations and delusions. Van Gogh is known to have painted some of his most famous works, including Starry Night and Sunflowers, under the influence of absinthe. The use of absinthe in the 19th century was not uncommon among artists in Paris, and Van Gogh’s works were known for their vivid colors and dream-like quality, which many attribute to his use of absinthe.

Similarly, Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, was known to have experimented with drugs such as opium and hashish. In his later years, he even became addicted to benzodiazepines, a type of prescription drug. Some of his works, including Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Guernica, have been attributed to his use of drugs, which altered his perceptions and allowed him to see things in a different light.

In the world of literature, drug use has also been prevalent. Many famous writers, including William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, and Allen Ginsberg, were known to have used drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and heroin. These writers often wrote about their drug experiences in their works, resulting in some of the most influential literature of the 20th century.

In the music industry, drug use has been prevalent since the 1960s. Many famous musicians, including The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, were known to have experimented with drugs such as LSD and marijuana. The use of these drugs often resulted in the creation of groundbreaking music that continues to influence musicians today. For example, The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is widely considered one of the greatest albums of all time, and its creation was heavily influenced by their use of LSD.

Drug use has also influenced the film industry. Many famous directors, including Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch, have explored drug use in their films. For example, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is a dark and disturbing film that explores the use of drugs as a means of controlling behavior. Similarly, Lynch’s Blue Velvet is a surreal and dreamlike film that explores the use of drugs as a means of escaping reality.

In contemporary art, drug use continues to play a significant role. Many artists today, including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, have used drugs as a means of exploring their perceptions and creating art that challenges conventional norms. Hirst, for example, is known for his use of drugs such as cocaine and heroin, which he has used to create some of his most famous works, including The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

One could even argue that drug use is a part of the art. It allows the artist to get in this desired altered state, which allows them to ultimately create and formulate whatever masterpiece was originally projected within the bounds of their own mind. In essence drug use has had a significant impact on various forms of art, both historically and currently. As a means of altering their perceptions and inspiring creativity, some of the most iconic works in art history have resulted. While drug use can be dangerous and harmful, it has also led to the creation of groundbreaking art that continues to influence and inspire artists today.

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Ivan Peteh

4 thoughts on “The Art of Drugs

  1. to be an artist, a lot of the times, is to contextualize the pain they feel as another human and being able to convey that. i think it is very hard for such emotion to come through in a sober state of mind. and drugs are a pathway of escaping a reality that is full of pain and unjust. in a way drugs are not only the pathway but also the destination for art. as a film productions minor i find it common for my peers and I to explore otherwordly visuals and experiences through our works, instead of sticking to reality and making documentaries. the attraction of altered experiences creates art, and the art form is just the vessel.

  2. I remember Basquiat he was praised for his art when he was under the influence. A homeless individual dopped out getting fame through his art. However, when he decided to get clean he was criticized, His art wasn’t deemed good enough anymore. Critics of his art saw a change in his style so he went back to using it. He lamentably overdosed on heroin. It leads me to question how the mind works. It has me questioning whether drugs let you access a part of your imagination and thoughts that are blocked by other things or if it simply gives them to you. Like a mini cheat code. For example, if you take antidepressants, are those happy thoughts really you or is the medication feeding you?

  3. This article is interesting because it discusses the use of drugs to make some of the most well-known art pieces in the world. It makes me wonder whether or not the villainization of such drugs has caused a stump in the artistic community given that more modern pieces of art seem plain and boring.

  4. Drug usage is an omnipresent force that is especially rooted in jazz history and its culture however contemporary jazz musicians have taken a more progressive stance where they oftentimes incorporate its uses into their artistry and musicianship. It’s interesting to consider what the roles drugs have played in different artists’ lives. I hesitate to wonder what the chicken/egg scenario is. Am I drawn to certain artistic pieces due to the artist or am I drawn to the artist under the influence? How have these dynamics changed over time?

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