What Drives Creative People To Abuse Drugs?

Amy Winehouse

As fans around the world continue to mourn the death of singer Amy Winehouse, the circumstances that led to her untimely passing are beginning to come to light.

While we still don’t know what killed Winehouse, we know that she was given the “all-clear” by doctors at a check up on Friday and was found unresponsive at her home in London’s Camden district by her bodyguard at 4PM on Saturday. “She was in her bedroom after saying she wanted to sleep, and when he went to wake her he found she wasn't breathing," Winehouse’s U.K. representative Chris Goodman told TMZ. “He called the emergency services straight away. He was very shocked. At this stage no one knows how she died. She died alone in bed."

Winehouse leaves behind a legacy as a brilliantly talented but endlessly troubled star. The problems started not long after the release of her breakthrough album “Back to Black.” Following several run-ins with the law and a leaked video of the singer smoking drugs, her Visa was denied and she was unable to attend the 2008 Grammys, where she scored five wins, including Record and Song of the Year. A flurry of assault and drug charges, as well as turmoil in her personal life, followed. She spent much of 2009 and 2010 in St. Lucia trying to clean up her act and refocus on her music. Things had looked promising for the star by early 2011, as she booked a European tour and claimed to be working on a new album.

Read on for more on Winehouse plus an expert's take on why musicians are drawn to substance abuse.

In June, after an ill-fated performance in Belgrade, Serbia, where Winehouse appeared extremely intoxicated and could not remember the lyrics to her own songs, the tour was scrapped. Following the debacle, we spoke to Dr. Karen Khaleghi, Founder & Education Director of Creative Care Malibu, about Winehouse and what drives creative people toward substance abuse.

“Artists frequently feel that they need to be in an altered state to be at their creative best and if they have traditionally been high while they have felt most prolific then this belief is reinforced,” Dr. Khaleghi told us. “Frequently there is a lack of awareness that once the person is addicted the quality of their artistic achievement is very diminished.”


At the time, Dr. Khaleghi also worried that the pace of the entertainment industry may have made Winehouse particularly vulnerable to the addiction she clearly suffered from. “There is an industry wide belief, in the recording industry as well as in acting, that there is always another hungry hard working talent ready to take your place in the spot light and your fan base with it,” she said. “So Amy herself might also be feeling a great deal of fear surrounding her absence from the day-to-day grind, even possibly a gripping fear of losing it all.”

That fear may have pushed Amy back on stage before she had sufficiently dealt with her addiction issues.

The official cause of Amy Winehouse’s death remains “unexplained” so it is unfair and premature to blame her troubles with substance abuse, however, it’s also impossible to not see the impact drugs and alcohol had on her life and career. It’s a sad reminder that these things never really contribute to an artist’s creativity, but they can go a long way toward silencing it.