If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, you were always told repeatedly that “winners don’t use drugs.” Except, of course, some of history’s most brilliant people actually did use drugs quite copiously and it hasn’t affected how we view them as geniuses, as this article over at Distractify reminds us. Below we’ll take a look at the smartest people that Distractify lists as well as add in several choices of our own who didn’t make the original list.
Opium: Assorted versions of opium were staples of 19th century drug use and were used frequently by English writers such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Shelley and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. We also know that French composer Hector Berlioz was inspired to write his masterwork, the Symphonie Fantastique, because of an opium-induced hallucination. Basically, opium was the drug of choice for artists in the Victorian era. But it wasn’t all for artists, as Founding Father Ben Franklin also took opium as a painkiller in his later years.
Cocaine: Sigmund Freud famously experimented with coke when he was concocting his theories that would lead to the foundation of psychology. Thomas Edison, meanwhile, was apparently fond of a cocaine-enhanced wine mixture called Vin Mariani. And James Joyce, the greatest writer of the 20th century, spent his last years taking cocaine and morphine while writing Finnegan’s Wake, a book that is just about the trippiest piece of great literature we’ve ever tried (and failed) to read.
LSD: Yes, both Apple cofounder Steve Jobs and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates have admitted to taking LSD. Famed molecular biologist Francis Crick, who discovered the construction of DNA molecules with James Watson, also dropped acid in his day.
Absinthe: In its heyday absinthe was also a popular drug with many artists and writers, including Vincent Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway.
Marijuana: We imagine pot has been used by pretty much every famous person born after 1950 and we know specifically it’s been used by the last three American presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The world’s smartest confirmed pothead, however, was astrophysicist Carl Sagan, who once wrote that “the cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before.”