Addicted to the Craft

Get loaded on 10 quotes from famous authors about the complicated relationship between drugs and creativity.


Photo: Shrooms Courtesy of Vix Walker / Flickr

When’s the last time you heard about an artist reaching creative nirvana by being hopped up on coffee? Like it or not, some of those who create the works of art that inspire us — books, music, films, everything in between — did it while, well, stoned. Buzzed. Drunk. High. Falling down a K-hole.

From English poets with opium addictions to the excesses of the Beat Generation to the drug-numbed world of Tao Lin’s Taipei, the often complicated relationship between drugs and creativity has long been a part of literary culture. Though some writers like William S. Burroughs were more vocal about their drug use, others spoke out against the destructive effect of addiction on their peers.

Below, we share 10 authors’ quotes about drugs and the excesses of the artistic lifestyle.

“I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.”
—Dorothy Parker, The Portable Dorothy Parker

“I have achieved my 70 years in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else.” —Mark Twain, 70th Birthday Speech

“In the U.S., you have to be a deviant or die of boredom.” —William S. Burroughs, The Letters of William S. Burroughs, Vol. 1

“It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 

“I was fortunate to get a lot of mileage out of my vices . . . The point is not to be debilitated by your pleasures. Maybe I have lucky genes or something but I’ve never been truly addicted to anything, except pleasure in general.” —Jay McInerney, Lunch with Jay McInerney

Hunter S. Thompson Gonzo

Photo: Hunter S. Thompson Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

“Good people drink good beer.” —Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

“Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgment.” ―Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly

“It is not I who become addicted, it is my body.” —Jean Cocteau, Opium: The Diary of His Cure

“After a few months in my parents’ basement, I took an apartment near the state university, where I discovered both crystal methamphetamine and conceptual art. Either one of these things are dangerous, but in combination they have the potential to destroy entire civilizations.” —David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

“What applies to drugs applies also, within limits, to every kind of excitement. A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure.” —Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

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