Opiates, more specifically morphine and heroin, have played major roles in the arts for decades - bringing both euphoria and destruction to its users.

They range from Arthur Connan Doyle's fictional detective Sherlock Homes (addicted to a both cocaine and opium), to legendary musicians and actors, the latest being Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Charles Dickens, who showed the world the dark side of Victorian England, was said to have been an opium addict. Much of American novelist William Burroughs' work - including his famous 1959 novel "Naked Lunch" - is said to have come from his experiences as a lifelong heroin addict.

French author Jean Cocteau wrote "Les Enfants Terribles" while undergoing brutal withdrawal from the drug, and later wrote "Opium, Diary of an Addict," which gives the reader a day-to-day account of his recovery from addiction.

American writer Jim Carroll's autobiographical novel "The Basketball Diaries" chronicles the travails of heroin addiction. Also, a musician, he wrote the song "People Who Died," which chronicles the death of friends and famous people, including fatal heroin overdoses.


The list of actors whose lives were cut short by the drug includes comedian John Belushi, who died of a speedball - a mixture of cocaine and heroin - in 1982; Chris Farley, who also died of a speedball overdose in 1997; and River Phoenix, also speedball, in 1993.

Some, however, were able to beat down the demon and continue with their work. They include Robert Downey Jr., who has been drug-free since 2003; and Mackenzie Phillips, who after being arrested for heroin possession in 2008, successfully completed a drug rehab program.

But nowhere has heroin's influence been felt more than in the music world, especially in jazz and rock.


Jazz greats Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Charlie Parker, Art Pepper, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday and Chet Baker were all users, with Baker getting so bad he was said to have pawned many of his instruments to maintain his habit.

In the rock world, probably the most famous heroin user was The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, who in 1977 was charged with intent to traffic in heroin in Canada. The charge was later reduced to simple possession. Richards, who took part in various rehab programs over the years, is now said to be clean.

Others include John Lennon and Yoko Ono; Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry; Eric Clapton; Dee Dee Ramone, who died of an overdose in 2002; Iggy Pop (his band The Stooges is said to have broken up because of Pop's growing heroin addiction) and John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas.

Both Janis Joplin, who died in 1970 and The Doors' Jim Morrison, died in 1971, had heroin in their systems at the time of their death.

Greg Allman; Pete Doherty of the British indie group Babyshambles; Panera's Phil Anselmo; The Clash's drummer Topper Headon; The Pretenders' basist Pete Farndon, who drowned in a tub after passing out while under the influence of heroin; The Band's Rick Danko; Velet Underground's Nico and Lou Reed; and 1960s pop darling Marianne Faithfull.

The Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious; Indie star Elliott Smith; The Red Hot Chili Pepers' Anthony Kiedis and John Frusciante (another Chili Pepper member, Hillel Slovak, died of an overdose); Motely Crue's Nikki Sixx, who almost overdosed in the '80s; and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love (Kristen Pfaff, the bassist for Love's band, Hole, died of a heroin overdose in 1994).

And with the musicians, came many songs about the drug including: "Needle and Spoon" by Savoy Brown; "Co'dine" (also as "Codine"), covered by Donovan; "Heroin" and "I'm Waiting For The Man" by Lou Reed (and The Velvet Underground); "Golden Brown" by The Stranglers; and "King Heroin" by James Brown.

"Mr. Brownstone" by Guns N' Roses; "Cold Turkey" by John Lennon; "Space Oddity" by David Bowie, and "There She Goes" by the British group The La's, are all said to be about the drug.

With Neil Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done" by Neil Young - written about the heroin use of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten, who later died from a Valium overdose - probably being the most anti-heroin song of the bunch.

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