From writers to musicians, from painters to visual artists, the art world is full of artists who have used nootropics as a creative catalyst. While the topic is still controversial in many circles — and illegal in most — there's no denying that a certain segment of creatives have found inspiration in these substances. Read on for more information on how you can use psychedelics to enhance your creativity.
What are nootropics, and what do they have to do with creativity?
Nootropics are supplements that may cause alter perception and mood. Examples of creativity enhancing nootropics include LSD, psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), mescaline and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Many people take psychedelic drugs for their therapeutic effects; however, some people abuse them. When it comes to creativity, science has found it beneficial to combine nootropic use for improving creativity. Writing about creativity, working with art, and nootropics all fuel each other and can provide a synergistic effect.
Writer and content creator laughedman uses nootropics for inspiration during long days. When he can’t work on his written work, he turns to humor, music and art for creative and therapeutic purposes. He explains,
“Psilocynis unattracta, referring to the Aztec god of love and sex, who’s depicted as a bird-headed hummingbird with a beard and wings. During an inspired or non-ordinary state known as erotica, the individual can take on the characteristics of this god in a creative endeavor. I saw a vision of myself as a bald-headed man in a robe who enjoyed wearing feather headpieces. Eventually, I discovered Psycho Candy, a San Francisco-based company that makes delicious kylie fairy crackers — basically, someone’s interpretation of him. I’ve embraced this dream-like state since.”
Aside from helping you with creativity and putting you in a dream-like state, nootropics give you access to an altered state of consciousness. This in turn can help you have more vivid and colorful imaginations. People who have vivid imaginations are able to see the world from different perspectives.
Writer Franklin Underwood goes on to say that certain nootropics open up certain doors that he didn’t use to have access to. He explains,
“Lion's mane mushrooms gave me insights into depression from an early age. Seeing the ways in which depression can be self-fulfilling prophecies made me understand where certain hatred of life stems from.”
By having a dream-like state, you may realize that you're not dealing with everyday problems, you’re facing something far deeper.
Nootropics have been used by artists for thousands of years
Nootropics & psychedelics have been used by artists for thousands of years. In fact, they’ve recently been used in medical trials to treat depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. They’re also used to help terminally ill patients come to terms with their own mortality.
In 1944, author Aldous Huxley tried psilocybin mushrooms during a psychedelic experience. As he later recounted:
“What followed was a series of visions involving strange beings from other planets who took an inexplicable delight in torturing me. I hate to report that it lasted for about two minutes, and then I changed partners and went into another session.”
Clearly, psilocybin — a psychedelic substance derived from magic mushrooms — had a profound effect on Huxley’s creativity. So profound, in fact, that he considered repeating the experiment four more times.
Five decades later, in 1970, Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary attempted their own psychedelic therapy experiment. They invited fifty-two chimpanzees to live in their San Francisco house, where they would all take a standardized psilocybin capsule one evening. Being curious chimpanzees, most of the group ingested the substance before the evening ended. Not surprisingly, the remaining thirty-two chimpanzees performed poorly on the test administered the following morning.
Many of the doctors at the time believed the treatment was a failure. As with Huxley’s experience in 1944, it was until after the experiment was completed that Alpert realized the drug had generated remarkable insights. The experience had been “life-changing” for all participants. They had all created art that would last many years.
Because of the trial’s dismal results, cognitive psychiatrists didn’t believe psilocybin could be an effective treatment option for depression or PTSD. However, in 2008, researchers at the University of Michigan began studying the transformative effects of psychedelic therapy on cancer patients.
I was able to speak with psychiatrist James Fadiman, PhD, MBA, for our final episode of our series about psychedelics and creativity. His work focuses on helping cancer patients who have a low quality of life due to treatment-resistant palliative symptoms.
Nootropic compounds are not without risks, but they can be a very valuable creative tool
Nootropic compounds are not without risks, but they can be a very valuable creative tool. Several studies suggest NSI 189 can help people become more creative, and the idea that drugs can make one more creative is not a new one. Entheogens have been used for centuries, and they were the impetus for Tim Leary and other psychedelic advocates to push for legalization in the 1960s. Since then, nootropics & psychedelics have been studied increasingly along with other psychotherapeutic compounds like benzodiazepines or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)— a class of medications that Degtia said “have absolutely nothing to do with creativity.”
However, psychedelics appear to work through a different system in the brain than some of the other medications Degtia mentioned. Other researchers have also found a connection between psychedelics and creativity. In his groundbreaking 2016 study, Dr. John Snow found that NSI 189 — among the most famous nootropics — can trigger “empathetic facilitation,” where there were improvements in self-reflection and the ability to understand the emotions of others.
Nootropic supplements, in general, can stir up feelings of awe, wonder, excitement, dissolution, and connectedness. This is often a very uplifting experience, and according to OneZero, it’s been shown that:
Moreover, researchers have found that people who describe their nootropic experiences as among the most meaningful they’ve ever had report a variety of positive benefits, such as increased creativity, heightened spiritual awareness, increased empathy, increased structured thinking, increased personal meaning, a sense of self-efficacy, and a higher sense of meaning.
Basically, the more spiritual people are, the more creativity they seem to experience. In short, the more you feel connected with life, the more you seem to be able to make your art, the more your life makes sense.
Obviously, nootropics are might not be safe for everyone (which is not surprisingly hard to understand when you consider how strong the cultural stigma around them is), as long as you don’t significantly alter your ultimate perception.
How to use nootropics for creativity in your own life
Nootropics are a wonderful tool for creativity when used in the right context. There are a few things you can do to maximize your artistic creativity potential when using them. You want to use the least amount of nootropic compounds, like coluracetam, as possible to get the effect you want. Nootropics are like a magnifying glass, the smaller the dose, the more focused the effect. Most people report feeling a strong focus after a small dose of phenylpiracetam and this can work really well for creatives too — just keep in mind that there are many variables that will affect how you experience your trip.
The best reason to try nootropics for creative growth is for self-exploration and to experience new ideas. While many people believe that NSI 189 nootropic is the most commonly used for creative purposes, Lion's Mane mushrooms have also proven to be tremendously popular. The classic psilocybin mushroom trip is one where the voyager trips onto another planet. These trips are the quintessential high-adrenaline trip for anyone looking to work on creativity in these tumultuous times.
Blues musicians like Carlos Santana and Frank Hendrix would regularly take mushrooms as part of an artistic creative process, with the goal to better understand their music. Lush pudding, butter, and green tea are some of the other ingredients they used to set the stage for their creative peaks in these psychedelic sessions. Hitting on psychedelics could help you uncover a new musical direction or create the perfect song flow.
Creativity is all around us, it’s all around us. We all have access, it’s just a matter of finding the creative work where you can find it.
Peaks and valleys can help bring clarity to your creative process and boost your learning abilities too. Nootropics were part of the early psychedelic culture long before some of them became illegal. The way they were used was in controlled doses which made their pure use much safer. You can also find more information on the psychedelic experience here.
I think one of the reasons that people don’t experience the positive effects they expect is that the nootropics lifestyle is really steeped in tradition.
Nootropics aren't for everyone, but if you're an artist looking to get more out of your creative process, I hope this guide will help you get started!
This guide should have given you a solid overview of how to get started with nootropics for improving creativity as an artist. They aren’t for everyone, but if you’re an artist looking to get more out of your creative process and you want to experience something new and potentially life-changing, this guide will help you get started!
NSI 189 and Lion's Mane mushrooms are two of the most widely studied nootropics by modern researchers. They’re commonly referred to as “PSI” (psi = mind, chem = chemistry), and they typically have piracetam at the root of the experience. NSI 189 is a calming and introspective nootropic. Lion's Mane mushrooms are stimulating and slightly spiritual. One of the main reasons psychedelics are used is to deal with cognitive disorders and cognition enhancement intents of all kinds.
Psilocybin mushrooms fall under the Therapeutic Use Exemptions — which allow people suffering from a diagnosis and/or treatment for a condition to using psychedelics to treat mental illness (indicated by a licensed physician) as long as the treatment is based on a medical doctor’s recommendation, restrictive compounds are not used (for example, psychedelic drugs won’t open closed off pathways in the brain), and the person receives supervision from a licensed (and corroborated) medical practitioner.
Thus, after we delved into these details, keep in mind that the above information was originally written for those wanting to skip the learning period for nootropics. If you’d still like to read more on the use of nootropics for improving your creativity as an artist, feel free to search about the online!