Throughout history there have been brilliant men and women who seemed incapable of balancing the demands of their personal lives with their contributions to history. Today, we are able to recognize that many of history’s most fascinating figures were in fact in need of professional help.
Many of these historical figures self-medicated themselves in order to fight their personal demons. Some chose drugs or alcohol, while others engaged in dangerous behavior that put their health at risk. If they were alive today, they would definitely need to spend some time in treatment to overcome their issues. Here are seven of the most fascinating people in history and their chosen vices.
1. Vincent Van Gogh
DISORDER: Epilepsy & Bipolar Disorder
Few people know that Vincent Van Gogh, tortured artist and earless legend, suffered from a case of the crazies. Years later, it would be revealed that “the crazies” was actually a misdiagnosis of epilepsy, which he aggravated through absinthe abuse.
Van Gogh used absinthe as a way to manage his condition. Thujone, the toxin in absinthe, made his epilepsy and manic depression far worse than if he hadn’t medicated at all. While it is unclear as to which came first, the epilepsy or the absinthe, Vincent Van Gogh definitely could have benefited from at least a brief stint at a rehab center.
2. Ulysses S. Grant
The biggest alcoholic to ever be put on money (except maybe the guy on the Wyoming quarter), U.S. Grant had been drinking long before he made it to the White House.
What is ironic about Grant is the fact that he was, in fact, a “Son of Temperance.” Actively fighting the fight against alcohol abuse, U.S. Grant did what he could to abstain from the bottle. That is until he quit the Sons of Temperance, and resumed drinking like a fish. While history will remember him as a man who helped win the Civil War, his friends will remember him as a mean-ass drunk.
3. Adolf Hitler
VICES: Methamphetamines & Cocaine
DISORDER: Little Man Syndrome, Anti-Semitism
Let’s table the obvious sensitivity training needed by Hitler, as most people are generally aware of it. What fewer people are aware of is the fact that he also abused methamphetamines and cocaine while running Nazi Germany.
While it is amazing to think that a leader hopped-up on amphetamines and coke could have the presence of mind and charisma needed to lead an entire country to war, Hitler was able to do it. Granted, he lost that war and is generally regarded as the worst human being ever to walk the face of the planet, but it’s still quite the historical legacy for a man who was high for much of his time in power.
4. Princess Diana
DISORDER: Borderline Personality Disorder
Princess Diana was bulimic for almost four years before she sought treatment. Once she made her condition public, the number of bulimia cases rose dramatically.
At first this was written off as copycatting, since throwing up seemed to be the only thing Princess Diana did that normal women could do just as well. However, it was later revealed that these cases were long-standing, and that Diana’s admission made women comfortable seeking treatment.
5. Edgar Allan Poe
DISORDER: Bi-polar Disorder & Schizophrenia
Edgar Allan Poe, a master Gothic literature, was also a bit of a drunk. Had he gotten that problem taken care of, perhaps he could have thought of an additional line for that stupid raven to say.
While it is up for debate as to whether or not his boozing influenced his writing, most people seem to agree that Poe was rather fond of the bottle. Since most of his literature was written from the point of view of a first person narrator, and since most of Poe’s first person narrators ate opium and drank, he is often misunderstood to be far worse off than he was. Nevertheless, he was pretty bad, and a short stint at Betty Ford would have served him well.
6. Emperor Nero of Rome
The Roman emperor Nero, famous for playing music while Rome burned, was a complex man. Though he was the greatest emperor of a generation, he also appeared to be a bit of a sex addict.
In fairness, it would be hard to not be a sex fiend back on those days, particularly if the statues bear any resemblance to real life. Not only are you the emperor of Rome, but everyone around you is hot and covered by only the smallest of leaves. Ancient Rome, for the wealthy classes, was a city of sexual excess, and it’s not hard to understand why Nero was so frequently tempted.
7. F. Scott Fitzgerald
When your drinking problems are so bad that developing a case of TB is actually an improvement to your health, you know you are in rough shape. Although the creator of The Great Gatsby will always be remembered as a terrific writer, his death at age 44 could have been prevented had he lived a life of moderation.
Although rock stars and Hollywood actors tend to be who we think of when we hear the word “rehab,” the reality is some of the greatest and most influential figures in history could have used some as well. Although they are primarily remembered for other reasons, many of their legacies will forever be tarnished with memories of abuse.