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Gifted and talented, drugs and alcohol

Many talented people with exceptional artistic and intellectual abilities have used drugs and alcohol. Sometimes they risk addiction.

Edie Falco says her past alcoholism made her role as an addicted nurse even more authentic in “Nurse Jackie.”

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman says he used drugs and alcohol earlier in his life. “It was all I could get my hands on. I liked it all.”

He got sober, he says, because “you panic. I was 22 and I was panicking for my life.”

Drew Barrymore smoked at age nine, drank alcohol at 11, used marijuana at 12 and cocaine at 13, and had at least two stints in rehab.

Johnny Depp admits that he got drunk to deal with his sensitivity, and had to go to events like press appearances: “I think I tried not to feel anything.”

He thinks drug use “has less to do with recreation and more to do with us needing to escape our brains. We need to escape from everyday life. It’s self-medication and that’s the problem.”

Among others who have used drugs, alcohol or other psychoactive substances are Aldous Huxley, Poe, Dostoyevsky, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams, astronaut “Buzz” Aldrin, Carl Sagan, physicist Richard Feynman, naturopath Andrew Weil.

Beethoven reportedly drank wine about as often as he wrote music and was an alcoholic or at least a problem drinker.

At least five American writers who have won the Nobel Prize in Literature are considered alcoholics.

Heather Kinga National Honor Society scholar and commentator for All Things Considered on NPR, says in an article of hers (“Quitting the Bar, Twice”) that she decided to go to law school because it would force her “to study so hard that of course I would cut down on drinking.

“Somewhere along the line, I would be transformed from a person with a nervous system so sensitive that, when sober, just being spoken to by a fellow human almost makes me hyperventilate.”

[See more on her site www.heather-king.com]

Her memoir Dehydrated describes her twenty years as an alcoholic, before family intervention and sobriety.

A craving for addiction often starts at a young age.

In the book Gifted Adults: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential, Lisa, 14, talks about being given Valium by a doctor: “Taking pills or smoking a joint helped me get through the day.”

She said gifted children use drugs “to numb themselves… there’s so much of the wrong kind of stimulation going on around you.”

Acclaimed writer and memoirist Anne Lamott has written very candidly about her years of drug and alcohol abuse in her column on Salon.com and elsewhere.

In a PBS profile, she said of starting in eighth grade: “You are completely hormonally challenged in the yin-yang, and on top of all these feelings they make you want to dance.

I stood around, and no one asked me to dance, and then I drank a beer and a half. And the guys asked me to dance and I was free.

“I think it started to work a little better for me when I started using drugs and drinking alcohol. I started drinking fairly regularly by the time I was 13. From the age of 19 to the age of 32, I got very drunk every night.”

She now finds sobriety a “grace” supported by her Christian faith.

Why do we use medicines?

There is no one simple explanation, of course, but many talented people have used drugs and alcohol as self-medication to ease their painful moods, such as social anxiety or depression, or to buffer the stress and emotional intensity that can be part of high sensitivity.

One way I tried to deal with depression and anxiety over twenty years ago was to use Coke. And I don’t mean the soft drinks. Fortunately, I became addicted to it after three years, thanks to cognitive behavioral therapy.

Many people have also used various substances to enhance thinking and creative inspiration. Or at least try.

The highly sensitive nervous system

In their article “A bioanthropological overview of addiction”, Doris F. Jonas, Ph.D., and A. David Jonas, MD believes that a “nervous system so exquisitely adapted to sensing the slightest changes in environmental cues becomes markedly overwhelmed and produces dysphoria when its wearer must exist among the exponentially increased social stimuli of a modern environment.”

Those with less sensitive nervous systems are, they write, “better adapted to our busier living conditions.

The more sensitive people can only attempt to assuage their discomfort by blunting their perceptions with alcohol or depressant drugs or by using mind-altering drugs to transport their senses from the dysphoric world they live in into their private worlds.

In her book The highly sensitive person, Elaine N. Aron Ph.D. notes, “It’s not surprising that artists turn to drugs, alcohol, and medication to control their arousal or to reconnect with their inner selves. But the long-term effect is that the body becomes further out of balance.”

In her article Weed Girl, Belinda Housenbold Seiger, PhD, LCSW writes about a client of hers she calls “Weed Girl” – who “was quite convinced that she was just a big mistake and had forgotten all her strengths.” Dr. Seiger continues:

As is the case with many gifted people who hear the dual messages of “wow, you’re so smart, creative, or talented,” along with the message “you’re too much to handle,” Weed Girl has never learned how to handle her problems to deal with. busy mind.

Instead of developing the essential coping skills for managing what I call an “achievement rage,” many gifted adults grow up doing exactly what Weed Girl learned to do, which is to say, they learn how to make their passion and sensitivity ‘numb and mute’ by smoking weed.

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