1. Zammo McGuire
Accompanied by a chilling synth soundtrack, everyone’s favourite ’Grange Hill’ character kneels in a dingy (if fictional) north London alley and injects a spoonful of smack with the ritualistic ease of a lifelong junkie. Is there anything that can stop his desperate descent into addiction, crime and probably death? Three little words: ‘Just say no.’ The war against drugs won in one catchy slogan.
2. Thomas de Quincey
William Burroughs, Alexander Trocchi, Will Self… Drug experimentation and literature have an intimate relationship, and it started here. De Quincey’s ’Confessions of an English Opium- Eater’ introduced nineteenth-century readers to the mind-expanding properties of laudanum through his descriptions of smacked-up nocturnal wanderings through the streets of London: ‘I sometimes seemed to have lived for 70 or 100 years in one night.’ For the same effect without Class As, simply book yourself a ticket to ‘X Factor Live’ at the O2.
3. Marianne Faithfull
In the 1960s, the singer was beautiful, successful and dating one of Britain’s most famous rock stars, Mick Jagger; by the early ’70s she was heavily into hard drugs and living rough on the streets of Soho. In terms of a fall from grace, it’s like Taylor Swift shooting up in a Berwick Street doorway. With Ed Sheeran as the twenty-first-century Mick Jagger. As if.
4. Sid & Nancy
Someone called Sid Vicious was never going to lead a quiet life, and when the Lewisham-born Sex Pistol hooked up with the equally volatile Nancy Spungen all hell broke loose. The pair were voracious heroin users, but instead of finding harmony in their shared pastime they rowed incessantly. During one bust-up Sid stabbed Nan to death in New York; he died soon after thanks to an overdose of drugs procured by his mother. Even if he were still with us, it’s unlikely he’d ever be the face of a butter advertising campaign.
5. Jonathan Aitken
Yes, that one. Theformer Conservative MP, famously convicted of perjury in 1999 after losing a libel case against the Guardian, was commissioned to take LSD in 1965 for a gonzo-style Evening Standard investigation. The hallucinogen was not altogether to his liking: ‘Visions of hell. Continents dripping with blood.’ Sounds better than a slow afternoon vote in the Commons, though.
6. Aleister Crowley
The press of the early twentieth century got Crowley all wrong: he wasn’t a satanist, and in an era that included such bad eggs as that Adolf chap, he probably wasn’t ‘the most wicked man in the world’, as they dubbed him. But from his Thelemic temple in Chancery Lane, he was a keen occultist, practiser of ‘sex magick’ and eager drug imbiber. Communion with ancient Egyptian deities, effective performance of mystical rituals and shagging witches is much easier when you’re off your head.
7. Sebastian Horsley
The libertine, artist, provocateur and Soho dandy, who had himself crucified on video in 2002, confessed to spending 90 percent of his income on more than a thousand prostitutes. The rest, he claimed, went on cocaine and heroin. ‘There’s something very beautiful about injecting someone you love with drugs,’ he said. Most people settle for a bunch of flowers on Valentine’s Day, but Sebastian Horsley was not most people.
The legendarily astute detective, like most of Victorian London, was fond of a little stimulation to ease the monotony of life. It wasn’t booze or opium that got him going, but the also-then-legal cocaine – ‘a 7 percent solution’ was injected so regularly that Dr Watson noted an arm ‘all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture marks’ and worried about possible addiction. No shit, Sherlock.
9. Russell Brand
Here’s a little-known fact: Russell Brand used to be a drug addict. Before he became the messianic comic the world knows and loves today, Brand was a somewhat manic MTV presenter with a taste for heroin and a propensity for dropping his trousers in public. Narcotics may have been responsible for his decision to expose his Y-fronts followed by what lay beneath them during the 2002 May Day riots in Soho; he was quick, however, to place the responsibility for his apparent genital shortcomings firmly on skag.
10. Keith Richards
Speedballs for breakfast? Years of heroin use? Enough LSD to keep an entire love-in worth of hippies tripping for a week? Giving up cocaine aged 62 because he fell out of a tree? Ongoing daily cannabis consumption? You wouldn’t know it to look at him… Euan Ferguson