Brilliant Minds in History and Their Favorite Drugs

Whether it’s leading countries, being part of a creative community or just wanting to experiment – at some point, some of the most famous names in history have tried or been addicted to drugs of some kind. Here’s the round-up of the most brilliant minds in history and the drugs they were once addicted to.

1. Charles Dickens

In Dickens’ time, opium was common on the Victorian streets of London and it’s fairly safe to say that Dickens himself was a fan, even referencing the drug and provided a detailed first-hand description of the opium dens in his later, unfinished work The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Dickens used the drug in the form of laudanum for many years before dying of a stroke in the 1870’s.

2. Vincent Van Gogh

Whilst cutting off his own ear was one of the wackiest things Van Gogh did, being addicted to the prescription drug Digitalis and strong spirit Absinthe can also be added to the list. Initially using the substances to treat bipolar disorder, anxiety and temporal lobe epilepsy, he soon became addicted and the yellow spots affecting sight associated with both certainly explain a lot about his artwork. Some people also believe that the use of lead-based paints also resulted in lead poisoning, further affecting his substance abuse and it was once noted by Dr Peyron that the famous artist once tried to commit suicide by swallowing paint or drinking kerosene.

3. Adolf Hitler

It is a well-known fact that Hitler used a cocktail of drugs to suit his needs, through the help of his many men. A USA Military Dossier states that Theodor Morell would assist Hitler in his drug-taking needs, using barbiturate tranquilizers, morphine, crystal meth, bull semen and many others. Some accounts claim that Hitler took crystal meth before his 2-hour long rant during a meeting with Mussolini and in his last hours in the bunker, it is said that he took nine shots of methamphetamine.

4. Thomas Edison

Vin Mariani was invented in 1863 and was essentially, a cocaine elixir. The wine was made from coca leaves and the ethanol content in the Bordeax could extract cocaine from these leaves exceeding 7mg per fluid ounce of wine. During this period, it wasn’t uncommon to consume the wine that had been laced with Cocaine and it became popular with the late Thomas Edison.

5. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs may have been a technological genius, but in the 1960’s he was also usingLSD. He was also said to think that certain people around him, who hadn’t tried recreational drugs, just didn’t understand him.

6. Stephen King

The famous horror writer is said to have been a practiced user of a self-made cocktail of cocaine, Xanax, Valium, NyQuil, beer, marijuana and tobacco. After an intervention by his family, King is said to have gone to Rehab to fix his problems and to this day, remains clean and sober. Apparently…

7. Winston Churchill

Whilst not quite as wild as others on this list, Churchill is said to have taken amphetamines on a regular basis in order to be able to stay awake to plan strategies in World War II. Add this to his reputation for smoking cigars and drinking whisky and it’s not hard to see how the previous UK Prime Minister died of a stroke in 1965.

8. Ernest Hemingway

If you’re familiar with Ernest Hemingway, it’s more than likely you’re aware of his alcohol problems. Although being one of America’s most famous authors and winning a Nobel Prize, Hemingway lost himself to alcohol consumption and turned to this after the lonely life of being a writer, apparently. Sadly, the drinking worsened his depression and caused a great deal of confusion, resulting in him eventually taking his own life.

With drugs and alcohol overtaking some of the smartest, most creative minds in human history, what hope does that leave for the rest of us? Whilst a lot of these claims can’t actually be verified, it’s still interesting to learn about the hidden past of some of these famous historical figures.


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I'm a psychology student with a passion for books, good food and movies. I can often be found reading self-help articles snuggled up in bed with a cup of coffee or writing about anything and everything in a quiet cafe somewhere.