Drug Addictions of Famous Writers

atkins-bookshelf-literatureMany artists and writers struggle with drug addiction. Kay Jamison, a psychiatrist from John Hopkins Medical School, believes that psychiatric illness was the engine of artists’ creativity. By tracing their family pedigree, Jamison learned that many members of the artists’ families suffered from serious mental illnesses, such as depression, mania, schizophrenia; many of them were institutionalized in mental hospitals, suffered for most of their lives, or committed suicide. Jamison notes that writers, more so than any other type of artists, suffer the highest incidence of bipolar disorder. Why is this the case? Jamison believes it is because the manic phase of bipolar disorder gives the writer tremendous energy and limitless stamina to forego sleep, expand their imagination, evoke grandiose thinking, and to engage in furious bursts of writing. And at the opposite end of the bipolar experience, the deep depression that washes over the writer, allows him or her to experience immediately and profoundly, the depth of human suffering. It is in this state, that the writer can contemplate mortality, the meaning of life, and the struggle against adversity and tragedy. Neuroscientist R. Douglas Fields adds: “[This] introspective soul-searching phase raises self-criticism and sharpens editing of the copious material penned in the heat of mania. Cured of their mental illness, such artists and writers would be gutted of their creativity and stripped of the means to realize it.” In short, bipolar disorder acts as the ultimate creative muse — truly a Mephistophelian pact that comes with a tremendous cost, as history has shown.

Here are some famous writers and their drug addictions:

Charles Baudelaire: hashish, opium

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: morphine

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: opium, laudanum

Charles Dickens: opium

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: cocaine

William Faulkner: alcohol

F. Scott Fitzgerald: alcohol

Ernest Hemingway: alcohol

Aldous Huxley: mescaline, LSD

Stephen King: cocaine, alcohol

Ayn Rand: amphetamines

Arthur Rimbaud: absinthe

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: morphine, alcohol

Jean-Paul Sartre: amphetamines

Robert Louis Stevenson: cocaine

Dylan Thomas: alcohol

Hunter Thompson: alcohol, heroin, cocaine

W. B. Yeats: mescaline

Read related posts: Writers’ Deaths that are Stranger Than Fiction
Random Fascinating Facts About Authors
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For further reading: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/creativity-madness-and-drugs/
Five People Who Died During Sex by Karl Shaw (2007)

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