literature Writers Who Did Their Best Work While High on Drugs  

Jacob Shelton
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It’s probably an understatement to say that most artists have taken drugs at least once in their lives. Even though some authors maintain a stuffy air of collegiate lawns and tweed jackets, many can party as hard as anyone else. In fact, there are so many writers who used drugs that it was kind of a hassle to narrow down this list. Every beat author could have taken up a spot, but we figured that we should shine a light on those special famous writers who wrote high and gave audiences something to really digest. So put on your groovy fringe vest and dig on this of famous authors who used drugs and did their best work while high.

The interesting thing about the authors on this list of famous drug addicts is that they don’t all just write in one genre, or exist in one time period. There are science fiction authors, poets, and mystic leaders who were all baked out of their minds on their drug of choice while they sat with their quills in hand and set their words to paper. You’ll see a few drugs of choice on this list - most of them are chemicals that were designed to keep someone up and working long past their bedtime, and a good number of those pills, liquids, etc. don’t even exist anymore.

Even if you’re living your life drug free, take some time to get to know these famous writers who used drugs, because their work is astounding no matter how it came to be.
Jack Kerouac is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Writers Who Did Their Best Work While High on Drugs
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The mythology surrounding Jack Kerouac's most famous work, On the Road, is that he wrote it in a non-stop three week period. Which is sort of true. But the thing historians tend to shy away from is that Kerouac was taking benzadrine (basically speed) in order to fuel his writing. This was a nasty habit that would follow him to his death.

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Age: Died at 47 (1922-1969)

Birthplace: Lowell, Massachusetts, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Visions of Cody, Big Sur The Town and the City, + more

Also Ranked

#67 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#80 on The Best Novelists of All Time

#93 on The Best American Poets

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Philip K. Dick is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Writers Who Did Their Best Work While High on Drugs
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There are two different Philip K. Dicks: pre-LSD PKD and post-LSD PKD. He always took massive amounts of amphetamines in order to fuel his word count (in the days of pulp science fiction, authors were paid by the word count and the more drugs you took the more you could type), but once he finally tried LSD and other hallucinogenics, he opened and his mind and began to write his most immersive and popular work.

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Age: Died at 54 (1928-1982)

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Man in the High Castle, Ubik, VALIS Flow My Tears, + more

Also Ranked

#29 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#2 on The Best Science-Fiction Authors

#39 on The Best Short Story Writers of All Time

#33 on The Most Psychedelic People Ever

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Ayn Rand is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Writers Who Did Their Best Work While High on Drugs
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In order to finish her masterwork, The Fountainhead, Rand turned to Benzedrine and finished one chapter a week. She continued to take the drug for the next three decades, so now we know what to blame for Atlas Shrugged.

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Age: Died at 77 (1905-1982)

Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Fountainhead, Anthem Love Letters, + more

Also Ranked

#50 on The Greatest Female Novelists Ever

#11 on The Best Jewish Authors

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Charles Bukowski is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Writers Who Did Their Best Work While High on Drugs
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Admittedly, Bukowski didn't take "drugs" per se, but for most of his adult life he never stopped drinking, and as just about any high school Health teacher will tell you, alcohol is a drug, too. At the height of his alcoholism he wrote such seminal works as Love Is a Dog From Hell and Hot Water Music.

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Age: Died at 74 (1920-1994)

Birthplace: Andernach, Germany

Nationality: United States of America, Germany

Works: Barfly, Ham on Rye, Post Office, Women Factotum, + more

Also Ranked

#38 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#34 on The Best Short Story Writers of All Time

#45 on The Greatest Poets of All Time

#18 on The Best American Poets

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William S. Burroughs is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Writers Who Did Their Best Work While High on Drugs
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Heroin is so synonymous with William Burroughs that's it feels weird telling people he took drugs. In fact, Burroughs was on and off junk so often it's shocking that he lived into his eighties. But back to the heroin, he was injecting it steadily throughout the '50s while he worked on Junkie and Naked Lunch.

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Age: Died at 83 (1914-1997)

Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Drugstore Cowboy, Naked Lunch, Junkie, Queer The Soft Machine, + more

Also Ranked

#43 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#84 on The Best Novelists of All Time

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Hunter S. Thompson is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Writers Who Did Their Best Work While High on Drugs
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Of all the writers on this list, Thompson probably took the most drugs. In fact, there was even a schedule for his drug intake that made its way into his biography. His daily habit included everything from orange juice, to cocaine and Halcion.

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Age: Died at 68 (1937-2005)

Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, The Curse of Lono The Great Shark Hunt, + more

Also Ranked

#47 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#92 on The Best Novelists of All Time

#2 on The Most Psychedelic People Ever

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Jean-Paul Sartre is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Writers Who Did Their Best Work While High on Drugs
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For a guy whose job title was "philosopher," Sartre was pretty wild. Rather than walk around in a robe scratching his chin and wondering about death or whatever, Sartre used a chemical cocktail of everything from Benzedrine to mescaline (a psychedelic that really freaks you out). The best story about Sartre's love of taking psychedelics involves taking so much mescaline that he started seeing crabs everywhere.

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Age: Died at 75 (1905-1980)

Birthplace: Paris, France

Nationality: France

Works: Nausea, The Reprieve, Critique of Dialectical Reason, The Problem of Method Existentialism and Human Emotions, + more

Also Ranked

#41 on The Greatest Playwrights in History

#64 on The Best French Authors

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Stephen King is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Writers Who Did Their Best Work While High on Drugs
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Stephen King, the master of horror, has been open about not only his alcohol abuse, which was the basis for The Shining, but also his heavy cocaine use that lasted from 1978 to 1986. Despite some of his best material coming out in that time frame, he openly admits that his final book written while cruising the snowy highway, The Tommyknockers, is one of his worst.

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Age: 70

Birthplace: Portland, Maine, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Works: Pet Sematary, Creepshow, Salem's Lot, Silver Bullet Christine, + more

Also Ranked

#65 on The Best Writers of All Time

#21 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#44 on The Best Science-Fiction Authors

#2 on The All-Time Greatest Horror Writers

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