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25 Great Writers Who Battled Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Can Affect Anyone

Some people are more susceptible to addiction than others, and writers are notorious for having some sort of addiction. Whether it’s alcohol to numb the noise of the world or speed or LSD to “inspire” them, the bohemian yet lonely world of the writer or poet is a minefield.

Robert Louis Stevenson

In just six days, Stevenson wrote 60,000 words. The reason was cocaine, and he wasn’t well at the time. Of course, the drug mentioned in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde involved a white powdery substance.

Philip K. Dick

Anyone who knows sci-fi will recognize this writer. If you’ve read his books, you’ll realize they’re pretty warped. Dick took a lot of speed and other substances throughout his writing career to enhance his productivity.

Aldous Huxley

Author of A Brave New World, this literary great took large amounts of mescaline and came up with works of pure brilliance. He was even introduced to LSD and mushrooms.

Hunter S. Thompson

A renowned journalist, he immersed himself in the scene. He also immersed himself in mescaline, LSD, cocaine, alcohol… the list goes on and on.

Jean-Paul Sartre

This French genius did pretty much everything that was possible with a pen and a typewriter, including chopping up amphetamine.

Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and he was certainly flying high on LSD when he wrote this. He became a lifelong psychedelic drug advocate.

John Cheever

A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Cheever drank heavily partly to repress his bisexuality. Although he died in 1982, he did have some success in giving up drink thanks to therapy.

Tennessee Williams

Another alcoholic, Williams is one of the best playwrights America has ever seen. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is perhaps his best contribution, and it includes many of the major elements of his life, including mental illness and a love of drink.

Dylan Thomas

A Welsh boy who grew up into a poet, Thomas is known for his prose and for his short life. He died at the age of 39 thanks to his excessive drinking.

Stephen King

The master of horror and cocaine, King churned out thousands of pages of work year after year. His family staged an intervention and showed him how his habits were getting out of control.

William S. Burroughs

Most famous for his book titled Junkie, Burroughs was a heroin and opioid addict. He even accidentally shot his wife in the head while under the influence after persuading her that a William Tell-like routine would be a good idea. It really wasn’t.

Jack Kerouac

On the Road was a great book, but it was written partially from an autobiographical point of view. Benzedrine features heavily.

Thomas de Quincey

De Quincey didn’t just write about opium; he lived it. His book Confessions of an English Opium Eater earned him widespread notoriety.

Edgar Allan Poe

The greatest poet of the nineteenth century, Poe died in mysterious circumstances. It’s almost certain that his addiction to alcohol didn’t help him.

Hubert Selby

Heroin and other painkillers were the demons of Requiem for a Dream, and they also hit Selby hard.

Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s may have been a bestseller, but a couple of martinis for breakfast was what fuelled Capote.

William Faulkner

A Nobel Prize-winning author, Faulkner drank to escape everyday life. He did state that he never drank while writing, though.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Dying at the age of 44 thanks to an alcohol-induced heart attack, the Great Gatsby writer produced numerous fantastic books despite his incredibly heavy drinking.

Charles Baudelaire

Baudelaire wrote Flowers of Evil (Fleurs de Mal), which was a swipe at the industrialization of Paris. He translated a lot of Poe’s work while enjoying his hashish habit.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Coleridge is perhaps best known for Kubla Kahn, which was inspired by an opium dream. Unfortunately, he carried on with his opium habit, which would kill him.

Charles Dickens

Writer of the most famous Christmas novel of all time, Dickens wasn’t so much food, glorious food as opium smokable opium.

William Yeats

Yeats was an Irish poet who experimented quite vigorously with pot. He developed a hash addiction but managed to kick it.

Earnest Hemingway

Hemingway is another great twentieth-century author who drank and drank thanks to a serious undiagnosed condition. He committed suicide in 1961.

Dorothy Parker

Known for her acerbic wit and satire, Parker became dependent on alcohol to fuel her work, particularly after her left-wing convictions put her on the Hollywood blacklist.

Allen Ginsberg

A well-known drug advocate and writer, Ginsberg took LSD and pot, and he encouraged the demystification of these drugs. His poetry reflected this on many occasions.

How to Get Help for Drug or Alcohol Misuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with problem drug or alcohol use, help is available and long-term recovery is possible. Professional drug and alcohol treatment programs can start anyone suffering with addiction on the path to recovery. Please contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) free at for help finding treatment centers near you that suit your requirements. You can also check your health insurance coverage using the form below or contact free drug and alcohol hotline numbers.

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