5 Things We Learned From Jim Morrison's Drug and Alcohol Abuse

07/29/2015 04:44 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2016

Jim Morrison is best known as the lead singer of The Doors. He is also infamous as one of many young celebrities who died young as a result of substance abuse. His history of substance abuse seems well established, as it is widely reported that Morrison suffered from alcoholism and substance abuse and died at the age of 27, of heart failure, likely from an accidental heroin overdose.

Researchers in a 2014 study looked through Jim Morrison's self-assessments, in his works and letters, as well as the descriptions by others. Their analysis of this data, under the perspective of creativity, can help us to uncover the impact of drug and alcohol use. The authors of the study reported:

  1. He self-medicated: Jim Morrison tried to cope with traumatic events, depressive moods and uncontrolled impulses through creative activities.

  • Talent, not drugs and alcohol, was critical to his success: His talent, skill and motivation to write creatively were independent from taking alcohol and drugs. More important was the influence of a supportive group that enabled Morrison's talents to flourish.
  • He used substances for self-realization: He used alcohol and drugs to transgress restrictive social norms, to broaden his perceptions and to reinforce his struggle for self-actualization. In short, his motivation to create something new and authentic was reinforced by alcohol and drugs.
  • Drugs and alcohol decreased his motivation and potential: The frequent use of high doses of alcohol and drugs weakened [Jim Morrison's] capacity to realize creative motivation. [He] is an exemplary case showing that heavy drinking and the abuse of LSD, mescaline and amphetamines damage the capacity to realize creative motivation.
  • His story is (unfortunately) not unique: Jim Morrison is typical of creative personalities like Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Jimmy Hendrix who burned their creativity in early adulthood through alcohol and drugs. The sacrificial ritual of their decay offers some benefits for the excited spectators [and] the illusion that alcohol and drugs can lead to authenticity and creativity.
  • I recently wrote an article regarding the impact of drugs and alcohol on creativity, how to tell if someone is ready to quit, and how to empower yourself to help a loved one with a substance abuse problem, click here to read more.

    Dr. Goldenberg is an Addiction Psychiatry Fellow in Los Angeles and has written numerous articles about mental health and addiction topics. You can follow Dr. Goldenberg at docgoldenberg.com and on Twitter: @docgoldenberg

    Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) forᅡᅠthe SAMHSA National Helpline.