Why modern day opioids haven’t inspired much ‘art’

26 Jan

Every artist is a cannibal,

Every poet is a thief,

All kill their inspiration

and sing about the grief

– U2

Ben Sixsmith has an interesting essay at The American Conservative, noting the relationship between drug abuse and artistic inspiration in the past, and finding not much of such happening with opioids today:

one of the interesting things about the opioid crisis is how little it has influenced Western culture. Where are the films and books about opioid misuse? One has the feeling that it is not quite romantic enough to have tempted the imaginations of modern artists. LSD encouraged optimistic idealism, and heroin had a kind of outlaw glamor. Opioids ease pain rather than spreading love and peace, and are more associated with dropouts and disabled people than dissidents and dreamers.


It is in music that opioids have been most influential, even if there have still been fewer aesthetically enticing acts than in previous drug-fueled generations. From the Beatles to the Happy Mondays, bands produced joyous and dreamy music under the effects of psychoactive drugs. Punk and grunge were darker—associated with the grim rituals and consequences of heroin addiction—but they had a furious anti-establishment ethic. Opioids have inspired music that is dumb, anxious, and miserable.

I suspect that while indeed those most affected – poor rural folk – are less likely than middle and upper class folks to go into the arts, I think the method of delivery of modern day opioids is a factor in terms of the lack of glamour surrounding them.

I mean, they’re either pills or patches. Thus, none of the dangerous glamour associated with ruining one’s nasal passages by snorting a powder up one’s nose, or damaging one’s skin and blood vessels through sticking needles in; none of the dark romance of such substances; nor the visual impact of burning something and observing smoke in a dimly lit room, etc.

Nope; just plain old pills that one swallows like vitamins, or a patch that delivers the drug in an invisible, slow fashion, untasted, unsmelled.

Surely, the fact that modern day opioids just tend to numb, combined with their boring delivery methods, makes them absolutely uninspiring to write good songs / poetry about, for the most part; nor do they inspire reflectivity…

Of course, products of our educational system today may just not be quite as capable of creative self-expression as those of yesteryear…


13 responses to “Why modern day opioids haven’t inspired much ‘art’

  1. Darwinian Arminian

    January 26, 2018 at 11:10 am

    “. . . . One of the interesting things about the opioid crisis is how little it has influenced Western culture. Where are the films and books about opioid misuse? One has the feeling that it is not quite romantic enough to have tempted the imaginations of modern artists.”

    Does Breaking Bad not count?

    • Will S.

      January 26, 2018 at 11:16 am

      Crystal methamphetamine is not an opioid, so no, ‘Breaking Bad’ literally, actually, truly does not count, at all. 🙂

      • Will S.

        January 26, 2018 at 11:20 am

        OxyContin, Oxycodone, fentanyl, carfentanil, these are all opioids.

  2. feeriker

    January 26, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Of course, products of our educational system today may just not be quite as capable of creative self-expression as those of yesteryear…

    Yup. Having both creative expression and critical thinking skills beaten out of them by the juvenile day prison system, along with being force-fed brain-rotting drugs like Ritalin, has rendered today’s young fleshturds incapable of anything creative or productive.

    • Will S.

      January 26, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      “This is your brain; this is your brain on modern public education; any questions?”


  3. Jack Roy

    January 27, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Former heroin addict here. Almost all modern opioids were designed to have analgesic effects with reduced euphoria. Many cause *dysphoria* in some users, particularly former junkies who know the real deal. I do not have experience with Fentanyl, which was not around in the black market in my day (late 1990s).

    While not commonly known, the only validated hypothesis for depression is the learned helplessness model, whereby animals are tortured at set intervals and at random intervals. Most animals can endure the regular intervals, but the random intervals result in most ceasing to eat or drink and consequently dying. For reasons I don’t understand, morphine is the only compound used to validate the theory, even as late as 1998 (Fentanyl was brought to market in the late 1950s).

    Depression and physical pain do seem intimately linked, and it is possible that the analgesic effects of opioid agonists, even if they are designed to minimize euphoria, function as strong antidepressants.

    A similar corollary would be say, alcohol and Xanax. Both affect the brain in similar ways, by enhancing GABA transport. Expert drug user that i am, I’ve never found Xanax to be particularly fun or recreational. It takes the edge of cocaine, amphetamine, etc., just as well as alcohol does however. But, does Xanax inspire you like alcohol? Has any artist used it for anything other than to control anxiety, drug induced or not? I’d hazard to guess the answer is “no”.

    Basically, it is a coincidence of sorts that “natural” drugs of abuse induce euphoria, which in certain people, enhances creativity (likely IQ related). Since then, the goal of pharmaceutical research has been to minimize euphoria while maintaining the clinically desired effects.

    And it is these manufactured opioid drugs that people are abusing. Now, I don’t really understand why this is. High morphine content poppy seeds are easily obtained, and they grow in much of the US. Most police have no idea what poppies look like, and in some places they are ubiquitous anyway. It is a fairly simple task to extract morphine from opium, and even easier to make Heroin, which is just the addition of vinegar to morphine. Basically, poppies can be grown anywhere, so this shortage where people resort to drugs designed to have less euphoria than natural opium makes no sense.

    By contrast, look at cocaine. The coca plant is very finicky and only can be grown in the right kind of mountain climate, but I have read that selective breeding has improved this.

    In any event, the issue is that for those in deep depression, which arguably is due to the nihilism and spiritual desert of modernity, pretty much all opioids will relieve the symptoms. Euphoria is irrelevant to these users. Then the withdrawal sickness comes on, and the spiral begins.

    • Will S.

      January 27, 2018 at 9:24 am

      Thanks Jack for a very informative and enlightening comment! Much appreciated.

      It makes sense, indeed, if the pharma companies are deliberately creating formulations that minimize euphoric side effects, that people using and/or abusing such substances may be less creatively inspired than those who used heroin and morphine in the past.

      • Jack Roy

        January 27, 2018 at 9:24 pm

        Happy to help! Keep a lookout on this topic. There is something odd out there with society pretending alcohol and alcoholism is not a problem, that marijuana is in fact God’s gift to mankind, and opium is the new scourge. Maybe it’s just distraction, I don’t know.

      • Will S.

        January 27, 2018 at 9:33 pm

        Yeah, it is odd.

        My take: the ruling class love the drugs they partake of, and hate those enjoyed by the poor, esp. poor, rural ‘deplorable’ whites.

        Thus, booze and pot are in; meth and opioids and tobacco are out.

  4. dvdivx

    February 14, 2018 at 7:02 am

    That’s but cause modern “music” is a reflection if the very worst of black culture. Have you seen any music awards lately? Its all black ghetto all the time. Music is a reflection of its people and culture and our culture is coming from the dregs of the ghetto and those who sponsor them.


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