16 Great Authors Who Struggled with Substance Addiction


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous character, Sherlock Holmes, was an unabashed cocaine addict. Historians have long speculated about Doyle’s own experiences with cocaine, but the evidence on that point remains inconclusive. Doyle may not have been an addict himself, but history is replete with famous authors whose drug use ranged from dabbling in addictive substances to full-blown addiction.

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Stephen King

The horror novelist, Stephen King, was so addicted to cocaine that he claims to have little memory of the 1980s. In his semi-autobiographical work, On Writing, he also recounts his problems with alcohol and painkillers.

Jack Kerouac

Unlike King, who was fortunate to have survived those years, the spokesman for the Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac (of On the Road fame), died of a liver hemorrhage when he was 47 years old, following years of heavy drinking.

William S. Burroughs

Kerouac’s contemporary, William S. Burroughs, reportedly killed his wife while on a heroin binge.

Philip K. Dick

The science fiction novelist, Philip K. Dick, once attempted suicide after bouts with amphetamines, barbiturates, and psychedelics.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Lest you think that drug use is confined to twentieth-century writers, keep in mind that Robert Louis Stevenson died at the age of 45 after years of cocaine and morphine use.

16 Great Authors Who Struggled with Substance Addiction

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens succumbed to a morphine addiction when he was 58.

Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe, who drank heavily and is believed to have used opium, died when he was barely 40 years old.

Substance abuse issues during the 1800s were also not confined to male authors.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for example, was reported to have used opium to inspire her writing.

Hunter S. Thompson

No list of famous drug-using authors would be complete without the gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson, who filled his days with liquor, marijuana, psychedelics, and a plethora of other substances, committed suicide when he was 67.

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Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway also committed suicide at the age of 61 following years of heavy drinking and serious bouts of depression.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hemingway’s contemporary, F. Scott Fitzgerald, suffered a heart attack when he was 52. Fitzgerald began drinking when he was very young and reflected his drinking lifestyle in many of his works.

Tennessee Williams

The playwright, Tennessee Williams, choked on one of his medications after suffering from multiple psychological disorders and substance abuse issues.

Ayn Rand

The libertarian icon, Ayn Rand, relied on amphetamines to power her through her lengthy novels.

Truman Capote

Truman Capote, whose fame in the 1970s and 1980’s surpassed that of many other authors at that time, drank heavily and reportedly abused drugs with reckless abandon, leading to several stays in rehab facilities.

Charles Bukowski

The poet and novelist, Charles Bukowski, relied on heavy doses of whiskey to fuel his creativity.

All around the world, great creatives, leaders, and people have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. There is no shame in your struggles. If you are living in Ireland and struggling with a drug and alcohol addiction, call Smarmore Castle Private Clinic today. Real change is possible.

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