Historical Figures Needing Rehab

Adored Historical Figures Who Needed Help

Adored Historical Figures Who Needed Help

Addiction & Abuse | have no boundaries…

When considering some of the greatest historical figures and their contributions to the world, we rarely let our minds wander to their personal lives and trials. Like every other human being, these talented people had strengths and weaknesses in their character, and they fell into addictive habits, as well. Here’s a list of some uniquely different famous or historical figues we adored who weren’t immune to vices, and really needed some help.

F. Scott Fitzgerald – alcohol


The famous author of The Great Gatsby produced great American literature and drank — a lot. He drank when he was disappointed, and he drank when he was proud. It didn’t matter what the occasion was, because Fitzgerald believed that alcohol only intensified current emotions; he probably used drinking as a way to feel especially good or to drown out feelings he despised. His liquor of choice usually involved gin.

He tended to write soberly, however, at least in the beginning. Regardless, he declined psychiatric treatment and typically showed no embarrassment to being known as an alcoholic. He got into domestic fights with his wife, Zelda, which were probably sparked by a night spent drinking. Having about four breakdowns due to alcohol consumption, Fitzgerald probably would have been a little better off with some help curbing his alcoholism.

Sigmund Freudcocaine

sigmund freud reading

While it’s difficult to know for sure how often and why some people in history engaged in substance abuse, it’s well known that Freud — the father of psychoanalysis — used to do cocaine quite often. He didn’t even think that cocaine was habit-forming. Eventually, a professional peer pointed out cocaine’s addictive qualities, and Freud realized that he was correct.

What most people don’t know, however, is that Freud wasn’t doing cocaine recreationally— he was studying its medical values. He believed it worked wonders and consumed it to fix some of his own pains for at least 12 years. He hoped this would be the panacea he was looking for, but eventually discovered this would not be the case. Freud probably could have benefited from someone going back and telling him that cocaine was both addictive and not all-healing.

Marcus Aurelius – opium

Marcus Aurelius Statue on Horseback

For the purposes of full disclosure, because Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius lived in second century CE, it’s pretty difficult to determine to a certainty whether or not he was addicted to opium. What we do know is that at one point, Aurelius was prescribed a medicine with opium in it, and although he stopped taking it because it made him drowsy, he started taking it regularly because he had difficulty sleeping after that point.

Many people suggest this indicates his addiction, but no one knows for sure. People who believe he developed an addiction point to his supposed detachment from everyday life and his weird use of imagination in Meditations as evidence. However, those with the opposite opinion say his visions were strictly due to creativity and imagination, not opium. Either way, the emperor probably could have done better with a medicine that isn’t generally used to produce heroin.

Vincent van Gogh alcohol

Vincent Van Gogh | Self Portrait

The famous painter was an alcoholic, but he seemed to be specifically addicted to absinthe. A lot of the theory about his drinking problem stems from his own artwork and the paintings of others who knew about him. For example, the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam displays an oil painting by van Gogh of a glass of absinthe sitting on a table.

Not every piece of artwork is so obvious. Art critics analyze other works to read into van Gogh’s personality and fears. Paintings showing people socializing around bars and in cafés supposedly suggests his fear of loneliness and his desire to be included in social environments. These feels potentially be the reason he turned to alcohol, but a lot of it is speculation.  If it is true, most can’t help but feel sympathetic and wish they could have helped him deal with the anxiety in a healthier way.

Billie Holiday – alcohol/heroin

billie holiday at the Mic

Holiday was one of the best jazz singers in history, but her famous days weren’t free of trials. Throughout her life, she struggled with poverty and got arrested for prostitution and drug use. She was addicted to both alcohol and heroin, both of which got her into major trouble, especially toward the end of her life. She died at the age of 44 in the hospital, where she had been under arrest for drug possession.

A little while after reaching the top of her singing fame in the late 1930s and finding out about the death of her mother, her heroine use grew much worse. She had been using the money she was making from her music career to buy drugs, and it was getting so bad that she tried to check herself into rehab to break the addiction. However, she continued abusing alcohol and never fully gained control of her addiction. If she’d gotten the help she needed, she might have had more time to grace the world with her beautiful voice.


Drug abuse and alcoholism can really hinder your life, even if you’re successful and talented. Having an addiction takes away your will power and control, often times leaving you helpless. Some of the most influential and adored historical figures suffered from these habits, and people continue to experience the downfalls of addictions today who needed help that wasn’t available at the time.

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