A painting, Dust-heads, by the American artist Jean Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) has recently been sold at Christie’s for $48.8 million.


Basquiat’s short waking life was fuelled by marijuana and his sleep by heroin. Among his rebellious habits was painting while wearing expensive clothes and travelling fast by first-class. His work shows features that are often seen in the frightening world of drug addicts.

basquiat_painting_book_8a   basquiat_taschen_book_6a   basquiat_painting_book_7a

To begin to understand his vision look first at the human eye. This can normally receive data at 8.75MB a second, faster than most internet connections. The brain’s visual cortex has pathways that manipulate these movements on their way from the eye to the conscious mind, and if the nerve cells involved don’t work properly, you hallucinate. Drugs do this by blocking parts of the synapses that connect nerve cells.

Metabolomic-retina       capas-cortex

Dopamine is a simple chemical found in the nerve cells and it sends signals to other nerve cells, across synapses. When heroin enters the system it bonds to opiate receptors which are the same shape. This turns off dopamine inhibition and releases dopamine into the synapse, giving a very pleasant sensation and vivid images.

Heroin_1_1  Heroin_2_1

Heroin_3_1   Link to the web-site Structural Biochemistry – Drug Reward Path in the Brain