by contributor, Eve Pearce

There is something intrinsically captivating about the down and out character who is on the edge of falling into a pit of either a drug-induced terror, an abusive past or a variety of other demons. The demise of these characters is perhaps what is so intriguing. The juxtaposition of these worlds, which are more often than not being identifiable to our own by not being far removed from the everyday, whilst also having that edge, which is different to what co-exists in our lives, is what makes these tales so fascinating. Authors who have first-hand experience of a troubled existence, whether writing an autobiography or fiction with elements of their own lives in is perhaps so appealing because no holes are barred in this style of writing—for surely if an author can be so open and honest about certain rather dark aspects of their lives, they more often than not are acceptable to going to the full extent and really showing the dangerous underbelly of what co-exists in a world alongside the normal everyday person—essentially the reader.

Drug Addiction and Abuse

Notoriously drugs have always been highly predominant in the creative world. There are constantly countless stories printed everyday in the media, which highlight the current celebrity of the day to be spotted partaking in recreational drugs. There are, however, a great number of authors who have turned this desolate destruction into writing inspiration which has lead to simply great works of art. One of the most famous authors in modern day inspired by addiction is surely Irvine Welsh, writer of Trainspotting. When asked how he got involved in the drug scene, The Guardian quotes him as saying, ‘Stupidity really, and ignorance’. The report goes on to state that unlike many of his contemporaries, he had ‘enough of a life beyond addiction to be worth fighting for’. He went cold turkey and kicked the habit. The iconic scenes in Trainspotting of the process of giving up addiction, very realistically depicted in Danny Boyle’s version, where therefore made even more realistic by Irvine Welsh’s first-hand experience in the matter. reports that ‘heroin is the fastest acting and most abused of the opiates’. Because of its highly addictive nature, a comprehensive treatment plan is required to break free from a heroin habit. Such real portrayals in novels and films are so epic because they do not hold back, and show the harsh reality of what rehab centers are faced with everyday. Being informed is key when avoiding drugs, and this is precisely what Talk To Frank focus on, stating that knowing all the facts is vital, considering that ‘60% of 16-24 year-olds have never taken an illegal drug’, and yet there are many rumors around drugs.

Drug Culture

Irvine Welsh chose a particularly harrowing account of drug taking and drug culture, but authors have of course chosen to portray this to varying degrees. For example The Beach is particularly lighthearted in places, seen as the backpacking book before Leonardo DiCaprio even made it famous. Alex Garland has on more than one occasion been praised for turning his drug-laden teenage years into a masterpiece of fiction. He really does encapsulate to the truth behind this, and on occasion his style, which can cleverly be rather fragmented and disjointed, undoubtedly reflects the mood he was trying to envisage from a life that was surrounded by drugs and people who were consumed with it. Cannabis is the focus of this novel, and although cannabis is not addictive per se, it of course has a lot of destructive side-effects and smoking can be extremely so. Quit reports that ‘one in two smokers will die from a smoking related disease’, and it’s because of these facts that the work of authors who are willing to shine a bright light on their own experience is so important. 

The Shocking Truth

There has become much more space in modern writing for authors who literally only come to the fore to tell their stories exactly as they happened, with themselves as the starring role. Take for instance Howard Marks’ Book of Dope Stories and Mr Nice, which are very open stories that depict exactly all the mistakes he made along the way. He is exceptionally self-assessing and to the point. Such reading material is refreshing as it simply does not have to pretend to be anything else. The underground world of crime is of course mainly kept hidden from the public, but here we are with a brutally honest tale, one in which you cannot help but identify with the main character—a huge drug baron, who at his height was supposedly smuggling in consignments as large as 30 tons of cannabis. According to ‘the DEA make 30,000 arrests a year related to the sales and distribution of illegal narcotics.’ Howard Marks really does offer the most in-depth insight into this world.

When it comes down to it whether we are just looking to be entertained by authors who air their demons in their literary works, or whether they can be used as a tool to learn from, it cannot be denied that these true accounts are truly fascinating.