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Famous Historical Addicts

Sigmund Freud

Long before people knew the dangerous effects of drugs or understood addiction, drug use was much more common.

People experimented with substances and quickly became dependent on these drugs. Although living terrible lives of addiction, along the way, some of these addicts made their mark on history. In fact, the strong connection between drug use and historical figures is alarming. While overshadowed by their great accomplishments, many historical figures on drugs had their substance abuse problems swept under the rug.  At Banyan Philadelphia, we are revealing the truth and talking about some famous historical figures who made great contributions to society but are also suspected drug addicts.

Historical Figures Who Used Drugs

Sigmund Freud

Most famous as “the father of psychology,” Freud made some significant contributions to the social sciences. He was a genius by many standards, but behind all of his wild ideas, Freud was a cocaine addict. Now we understand the dangers of this drug and the importance of cocaine addiction treatment, but at the time many people believed that cocaine was a new miracle drug. He even went so far as to write a paper proclaiming its healing powers and promoting it to others.

Ernest Hemmingway

His books still grace the shelves of every school library and he is consistently a topic in English classes. Although he may have churned out many classics, his life was also ridden with a series of mental health issues and drinking problems. While his alcohol abuse is pretty well known, what many people do not know is that he claims to have never had a drink while writing.1

Winston Churchill

Although an important leader during the troubles of World War II, Churchill struggled with both alcohol and drugs. His heavy drinking problems were more well-known, but what most people did not know is that this great war leader was also popping pills. Rather than treatment for alcohol abuse, Churchill’s doctor gave him multiple dangerous psychoactive drugs including barbiturates. At the time, these pills were more routine, but looking back, research shows that the drugs and alcohol Churchill was taking could have been a deadly combination.2

Benjamin Franklin

Known for his great inventions and as one of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was undeniably talented and intelligent. Although the man made history for many reasons, he is still one of our famous historical addicts. As it turns out, Franklin was part of the first American opioid epidemic. He took opium as a painkiller in his later years and many suspect that he became addicted to it.  In his defense, opioids were a common medication for pain at the time as people didn’t yet understand their addictive qualities.

Elvis Presley

Yes, the King of Rock & Roll and heartthrob of his time also makes the list of our famous historical addicts. When he wasn’t stealing the hearts of women with his pelvic hip movements, Elvis was a long-time abuser of a myriad of drugs including most opioids. Rather than formal opioid addiction treatment, Elvis turned to a physician who arguably made matters worse. His drug addiction eventually led to his untimely death.
From these famous historical addicts sprung exaggerated images of scientific geniuses conducting mad experiments or the boozed-up degenerate author who somehow managed to write a classic novel that students still study in school today. While their accomplishments are something to be admired, their lifestyles certainly were not. Now that we have a better understanding of the harmful and long-lasting effects of substance abuse, it is important to get help when needed.
If you or a loved one is looking for addiction rehab in Philadelphia, let us help. At Banyan Philadelphia, we offer programs to assist people with substance abuse problems that vary in severity.

Call us today at 888-280-4763 to learn more what we have to offer.


  1. Food Republic - 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Ernest Hemingway’s Drinking Habits
  2. The Telegraph - Winston Churchill's drinking was one thing, but what about his drug-taking?
Alyssa who is the National Director of Digital Marketing, joined the Banyan team in 2016, bringing her five-plus years of experience. She has produced a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. Through strategic marketing campaign concepts, Alyssa has established Banyan as an industry leader and a national household name.