Writers Who Did Their Best Work While High on Drugs

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
    Photo: Tom Palumbo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
    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.
    • Age: Dec. at 47 (1922-1969)
    • Birthplace: Lowell, Massachusetts, United States of America
    • Works: On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Visions of Cody, Big Sur, The Town and the City
  • Philip K. Dick
    Photo: Greenleaf Publishing / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    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.
    • Age: Dec. at 53 (1928-1982)
    • Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
    • Works: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Man in the High Castle, Ubik, VALIS, Flow My Tears
  • Ayn Rand
    Photo: Mark Paulin / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    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.
    • Age: Dec. at 77 (1905-1982)
    • Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
    • Works: Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Fountainhead, Anthem, Love Letters
  • Charles Bukowski
    Photo: Artgal73 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.5

    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.

    • Age: Dec. at 73 (1920-1994)
    • Birthplace: Andernach, Germany
    • Works: Barfly, Ham on Rye, Post Office, Women, Factotum