We have a very love/hate relationship with drugs, don’t we? You love it when those pain pills the doctor gives you take all the pain out of that wisdom tooth extraction, but you grow to hate them as you start crushing them up and snorting them off of promiscuous lady’s bottoms. However, not everyone who has riddled their brain with mind-altering substances has come out the other side a loony or a criminal, a few diamonds in the rough actually turned out to be some of the most influential thinkers and geniuses of all time. Of course you have to ask the chicken or the egg question: what came first, their intellectual prowess or the drugs? It’s difficult to answer, but their trains of thought would have been a bit different had they never skipped through fields of abstract geometric patterns towards the twin suns of Tatooine, that much we can be sure of.
5. Dr. Sigmund Freud
That’s right, quite possibly the biggest name in psychology and the study of human nature also made a hobby out of regular cocaine use. His speculation on the uncomfortable topics of phallic fixation and Oedipal thought patterns are renowned as groundbreaking work in psychoanalytical circles, but he seemed to be far less introspective and honest about his cocaine habit. He is cited as saying that cocaine helped him get over his depression and communicate better with his in-laws- perhaps he should have practiced what he preached and took a peak at his own subconscious to find out why he really used the stuff.
4. Aldous Huxley
Huxley was a very influential science-fiction writer in the 1900’s during the World Wars. You may have heard of some of his work, he wrote the prized sci-fi utopian novel Brave New World among other renowned titles. Huxley was a huge advocate for psychedelic and hallucinogenic drugs- he used them as a way to explore spirituality and the nature of the human consciousness. He wrote The Doors of Perception precisely on this subject, the essay is essentially a description of his experience on mescaline (the active psychoactive in peyote) and it has since become the manifesto of soul-seeking ‘psychonauts’. He famously requested 100 ug (micrograms) of LSD on his deathbed hours before death- talk about breaking through to the other side!
3. Jim Morrison
While he didn’t make any scientific breakthroughs or write any novels (though he had planned to), Jim Morrison of The Doors was a legendary poet and musician who influenced countless artists who followed in his wake. Drug use in the rock star world is by no means a rarity, but if any drug-addled musician deserves the title of “scholarly genius”, it’s Jim. His work is revered for its complex meanings and symbols- one of his most infamous songs entitled “The End” even has oedipal overtones. He did nearly anything that came his way: alcohol, cocaine, acid, the works. His drug use consumed him in the end, but he also used them to enrich his music and explore his consciousness (he was a big fan of Huxley’s The Doors of Perception).
2. Charles Dickens
Perhaps the most well-known and celebrated novelist of the Victorian era, Charles Dickens isn’t someone that you’d usually associate with heavy drug use. With widespread opium dens popping up in Dickens’ stomping grounds, it wasn’t difficult for him to find the stuff and ‘nod off’, as they say. Did his use of opium influence his literary work? Perhaps, but with timeless novels to his name like A Tale of Two Cities, he won’t soon be remembered as a ‘druggie’.
1. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates
I bet you didn’t know that the two titans of computer science both dropped acid back in the day. Bill Gates admitted to his ‘errant youth’ in a Playboy interview, but seemed hesitant to go into much detail. This is in contrast to Jobs of Apple fame that said his encounter with LSD was “one of the two or three most important things [he had] done in [his] life”. Did one of his trips give him the inspiration for the rounded white plastic aesthetic that’s netted his company billions? The world may never know.
So what did we learn today? Sometimes smart people do drugs, and their effect depends entirely on the person. They open doors for some people, close them for others. In fact, our friend Aldous Huxley was a firm believer that “laymen” did not have the intellectual capacity to use psychedelic drugs in a meaningful way and should avoid them lest they stir some dormant psychological issues, so those of you who may be ‘dim’, just remember that “drugs are bad, mmkay?”