Writers and Addictions

Honore de Balzac drank fifty cups of coffee a day, toward the end just munching the ground coffee straight. He died of caffeine poisoning.

Charles Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal bloomed under the influence of hashish.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge became addicted to the opium prescribed as a painkiller. An opium reverie gave us "Kubla Khan."

Isak Dinesen became strangely addicted to the mercury that may have cured her syphilis. Even after doctors declared her cured, she kept taking it, damaging her stomach in the process.

Feodor Dostoevsky was addicted to gambling, as described in Leonid Tsypkin's wonderful Summer in Baden-Baden.

Ernest Hemingway was an alcoholic.

Aldous Huxley was a slave of mescaline.

Arthur Rimbaud was addicted to absinthe.

Robert Southey used nitrous oxide (laughing gas).

Robert Louis Stevenson was addicted to cocaine.

Dylan Thomas was an alcoholic. A week before he died (at 39), he boasted that he'd drunk eighteen straight whiskeys.

Heavy tobacco users include: Martin Amis (unfiltered), Beryl Bainbridge (she tried to quit after developing leg problems, but found she couldn't write), Saul Bellow, Ursula K. Le Guin, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Kurt Vonnegut.