Addiction and Alcoholism among Public Figures

Dr. Purushothaman
September 10, 2013

Addiction and alcoholism are diseases that know no social, economic, religious or ethnic bounds. Some of the world's most influential people have struggled with drug or alcohol dependence, including people who were widely considered to be intellectual heavyweights responsible for significant contributions to modern society. However, this just goes to show that addiction is not about will power, education or intelligence â€" it's a legitimate disease that can strike down a janitor as well as a doctor and a politician as well as a laborer. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction or alcoholism, you should know that you're not alone.
One of the most famous examples of addiction among a powerful public figure was Sigmund Freud's years of cocaine use. He originally began using the substance out of a purported desire to study its efficacy for a wide variety of illnesses and conditions, but soon became obsessed with the drug. Convinced that it could cure his friend's addiction to morphine, Freud began administering cocaine until the friend developed an addiction to it, overdosed and died. This caused Freud to use cocaine even more, nearly causing his life and his reputation as the Father of Psychology to spin out of control.
Decades before Freud was born noted author Thomas de Quincey wrote a book titled "Confessions of an English Opium Eater." The book details de Quincey's own use of opium and his experiences living among other opium addicts. Strangely enough, though nearly 200 years separate his time and our own, very little has changed for opium addicts (heroin, morphine, Oxycontin) today. Squalid and desperate conditions, high crime, violence and disease permeate this lifestyle today just as it did centuries ago.
Other public figures who suffered from addiction or alcoholism include:
Ernest Hemmingway: One of the most famous writers of all time, Hemmingway was a severe alcoholic who often prided himself in being able to out-drink his fellow alcoholic peers.
Edna St. Vincent Millay: The first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, this famous poet was well known for her drinking and unpredictable behavior.
Jack Kerouac: Though Kerouac became famous for penning such novels as On the Road and The Dharma Bums, this much-loved "beatnik" vowed repeatedly to die from alcoholism and did exactly that.
Janis Joplin: Joplin was a country girl out of her league. After getting involved with various street drugs and becoming addicted to heroin, she died of an overdose in her hotel room when she was just 27 years old.
Kurt Cobain: Decades after Joplin died, Cobain struggled with the same beast â€" heroin â€" and lost. He shot himself to death in 1994, supposedly in an effort to end his addiction to the big H.
Steven King: King's books are permeated with protagonists who are alcoholics and drug addicts. As King himself has said, people tend to write about what they know, and King's heavy use of alcohol and barbiturates in the 1980's is a perfect example.
Regardless of why a person initially begins using drugs, people who have a great deal of fame, fortune or power often also have a great deal of stress. This stress can lead to a dangerous path of addiction and alcoholism in an effort to self-medicate the pressures of being a public figure. However, the same can be true of any kind of pressure â€" including the pressures we all face as a part of our daily lives. If something in your life has caused you to turn to drugs and alcohol for solace, you're not alone, and help is available right now. Pick up the phone now and speak to someone confidentially about how an inpatient substance abuse treatment can help to take back control of your life.

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