The Substance Abuse of Hunter S. Thompson in Search of the ‘Good Life’

“Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the ‘good life’, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.” – Hunter S. Thompson


If any public figure is known for their substance abuse it is Hunter S. Thompson, self proclaimed “gonzo”  journalist and advocate for, “ drugs, alcohol, violence, [and] insanity.” The man had a daily ritual of addictive substances scheduled for his own consumption, regularly, throughout the day. Thompson woke up in the late afternoon, around 3pm and started his day with a Chivas Regal whisky. After that he toggled between substances: cocaine, more whisky, coffee, cigarettes, acid, more cocaine, orange juice, weed, and yet more cocaine.

Thompson made a name for himself in the field of Journalism in the 1960’s. He eventually developed his own form called, Gonzo Journalism. The form turns the story on the writer and it becomes a chaotic first person subjective piece. It’s as if Thompson couldn’t keep himself out of the center of the story he’d been tasked to tell, and inserting him into it made it a bizarre version of reality. To say his drug and alcohol addictions did not change the nature of his journalism and increase the amount of surrealism found in his work would be a misstep. Thompson was such an egregiously consistent substance abuser that the likelihood is very high that his mental functions were altered for many of his conscious moments, if not all of them.


Nature or Nurture?

By the time Hunter S. Thompson died his drug and alcohol abuse and chemical dependency were overwhelming his days, but where did it all start? Was Thompson a rebel? Or an offshoot of his family tradition?

Thompson’s father died from Myasthenia Gravis when he was just 14 years old, leaving himself and his three older brothers to be raised by his newly widowed mother, Virginia Ray Davison. Davison was made the sole provider for her household and her three boys when her husband’s died. She worked at the library to make ends meet as a head librarian. As she dealt with the profound difficulties of being a single parent and grieving the death of her spouse, Thompson’s mother became an alcoholic.

Thompson was raised in a situation that could classically lead someone to substance abuse. With his mother drinking too much, becoming addicted to alcohol, and working around an endless supply of literature, it’s not hard to tell where Thompson got much of his passions in life. Both literature and addiction to alcohol got passed down from his mother. She really instilled in him his legacy, for good or for bad, his tendency toward addiction becoming even more so as she became dependent on the substance.


Is It Possible To Recover From That Kind Of Addiction?

There’s a question of what happens to an artist if they get free from chemical dependency. Can they still sing, paint, what about write? How much more could Thompson have put down on the page if he had only gone to an inpatient drug rehab? South Florida drug detox and available programs at alcohol treatment centers in Florida are the types of programs that could have helped Thompson save his life, his career which had started taking, and his health.

If you’re suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol please call us at (844) 299-0618 to learn more about our drug recovery programs.

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