Sex, Drugs and Creativity

Searching for Magic in a Disenchanted World

By Dustin Kahoud and Danielle Knafo

In Sex, Drugs, and Creativity: Searching for Magic in a Disenchanted World, Kahoud and Knafo take a close look at omnipotent fantasies in three domains: sex, drugs, and creativity. They demonstrate how these fantasies emerge and how artists draw on them both to create and destroy—sometimes simultaneously—and how understanding this can help therapists work more effectively with these individuals.

Using personal statements of influential artists and entertainers, in addition to clinical material, the authors examine the omnipotence of self-destruction as it contends with that of creativity. The authors argue that creative artists use omnipotent fantasies to imagine the world differently—this enables them to produce their art, but also leaves them vulnerable to addiction. Chapters devoted to Stephen King and Anne Sexton show the ways these authors used drugs and alcohol to fuel imagination and inspire creative output while simultaneously doing harm to themselves. A detailed case study also demonstrates successful work with a creative substance user.

Sex, Drugs, and Creativity will appeal to anyone interested in the links between creativity and substance use, and will be of great use to mental health professionals working with these challenging clients.


This book is a tour de force! With delicious writing, it explores the relationships among early trauma, existential dread, omnipotent fantasy, and sexuality, drugs, and creativity. The reader learns how omnipotent fantasy is expressed in perversion, addiction, and creativity, and how particular responses to our existential dilemmas can transform self-defeating behavior into positive, creative activity. Kahoud and Knafo led me to reflect deeply on how these dynamics operate within me and are relevant to my work with patients. I highly recommend this book.
–Andrew Tatarsky, Ph.D., Founder & Director, The Center for Optimal Living, Author, Harm Reduction Psychotherapy: A New Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Problems.

The existentialists have proposed that the lot for us humans is one of infinite thirst juxtaposed to essential limitation. Kahoud and Knafo understand this well. They trace the vicissitudes of this aspect of our human nature to earliest phases of childhood development. The authors stress the importance of omnipotent fantasies and attitudes as defenses against a sense of impermanence and powerlessness. The book is well written and clear, free of obscuring jargon, and offers critically important psychodynamic understanding to explain how sex, drugs, and creativity can become such a compelling force in the lives of susceptible individuals.
–Edward Khantzian, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. Author, Treating Addiction as a Human Process

Kahoud and Knafo explore the connection between sexuality, substance abuse, and creativity through a psychoanalytic lens, and they bring a fresh nuanced perspective that will inform psychodynamic practitioners as well as sophisticated readers. They elucidate the secret agendas behind sexuality and reach beyond behavior into a magical mystery tour of inner psychic experience. The case examples humanize the most extreme attempts to use sex as reparation for life’s universal harshness and inevitable losses.
–Suzanne Iasenza, Sex Therapist and Co-Editor, Lesbians, Feminism and Psychoanalysis