Substance Abuse in Creative Arts

Judging by what we see in the news on a regular basis, people in the creative arts are, for some reason, highly affected by cases of substance abuse. Art and substance abuse is a double-edged sword. Many claims that drugs or alcohol helps to expand their creativity or even be someone different when they are acting, but eventually many become reliant on these drugs and the creativity stops altogether. At the same time, many who have been addicted find that art therapy is a great way to help them maintain sobriety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices, which include art therapy, has increased rapidly over time and they estimate that approximately 40-percent of adults use some form of a holistic approach to deal with life’s difficulties.

Art Therapy for Substance Abuse Recovery

Art therapy is a holistic treatment that has been around since the 1940s and requires a professional who is qualified to guide people through this form of treatment, so he or she can address human behavior. You don’t have to be an artist to enroll in art therapy. This holistic form of rehab treatment can replace the most traditional discussion techniques or counseling used by most rehab centers and you will discuss your feelings through the art you create, which can include drawing, painting, sculpting, or other arts and crafts.

Many holistic rehab centers find that this therapy allows patients to express themselves when they struggle to find the words to explain how they are feeling. For many, their emotions are realized after discussing their artwork.

Famous Artists Who Overcame Addiction Using Holistic Therapy

There are many successful cases of everyday people who have improved their lives after a traumatic experience using art therapy. The beauty of art is that there are no rules and you can be as creative as you want to be in expressing emotions that may be difficult to express in front of others.

Natalie was a 44-year-old woman with aggressive and sometimes violent behavior, who was referred to art therapy because of the decline in her health. Through the art she created, her art therapist was able to identify why she was behaving in such a way. By explaining her art, her traumatic childhood memories were revealed, and she could begin the road to recovery.

In 2011, Robert Latchman, a schizophrenic with learning disabilities, survived being hit by two cars in New York City and while doctors were able to fix all his physical injuries, the trauma from the experience was much more difficult to overcome. After a two-year-long healing process was afraid he would never return to be an artist, but with the help of his mentors, he has returned to painting again and in June of 2013, he sold three paintings.


Addiction is a serious problem in the entertainment industry. Too many brilliant talents have been lost to drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, substance abuse is not only overlooked but even celebrated in the creative world.

Charles Watson | @charleswatson00

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