Top Dozen Drug Icons

by Kyle K. Mann & Kidman J. Williams with Ed Mann for Gonzo Today

Drug icons exist in many forms in many eras, so any list like this is gonna be subjective. Also rather male. Click bait? Call it what you want, but the staff at Gonzo Today feel confident in our experience and years of study and discussion to give readers the benefit of our considered opinions.

Here is the top dozen drug icons… plus some mentions at the end because there are a lot. If anybody says that drugs don’t rule the world, don’t believe them AT ALL!

#12 George Jung

Boston George Jung (Twitter)

This smugglin’ dude makes the list on the strength of being portrayed by Johnny Depp in Blow and his years of importation of pot and coke into the U.S.A. In conjunction with figures like Pablo Escobar and Carlos Lehder of the notorious Medellin Cartel, he was huge. Jung will have to represent the other two as well, given the limitations of this list. Boston George Jung was one ballsy character, using stolen planes to bring in foreign marijuana, and then arguing with a judge when busted at the Chicago Playboy Club about the legitimacy of imprisoning him “for crossing an imaginary line with a bunch of plants,” a statement that looks good in retrospect. Jung was popped with nearly a ton of coke in the 90s and did a couple years in federal custody. Ouch.

#11 William Burroughs

William S. Burroughs Gun in hand

The author of the infamous book ‘Junkie’ and additionally immortalized in various quarters, including Kerouac’s ‘On the Road,’ as ‘Old Bull Lee.’ Co-author with Allan Ginsberg of The Yage Letters, regarding a quest for the substance ayahuasca, of which dimethyltryptamine aka DMT is a primary component. Then there’s Burroughs’ work Naked Lunch, his drug-infused epic that was later made into a movie. We’ll try to overlook him shooting his wife, whichever version of that story you believe.

#10 Albert Hoffmann

Albert Hoffmann

The guy who invented LSD while working at Sandoz Laboratories and took the first accidental acid trip, and then three days later, the first intentional one, experiencing the wondrous effects on his famous bicycle ride. For bonus points he also was the first to synthesize psilocybin from psychedelic mushrooms. Lived to be 102, so his experiences didn’t exactly hurt his longevity. Later wrote LSD, My Problem Child which decried the abuses of the ‘60s, but he continued to take it himself and expressed frustration with the worldwide illegality of his discovery, terming LSD a “sacred drug” in his autobiography. Iconic? You bet!

#9 Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson

Left to Right: Snoop Dogg & Willie Nelson

In 2008 Snoop Dogg released the album Ego Trippin’ and it featured an unlikely pairing of Willie Nelson, Snoop, Everlast, and Brad Paisley. This song was “My Medicine” and it forever linked the two drug icons forever. As if the weed smoking didn’t do it already.

We kind of figure that the song was just a reason to have the hotbox of ALL hotbox sessions. Oh, to be a stoned fly on the wall of that studio.

#8 Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters

Author Ken Kesey poses in 1997 with his bus, “Further,” a descendant of the vehicle that carried Kesey and the Merry Pranksters on the 1964 trip immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Acid test, anyone? Kesey and his psychedelic gang including Neal Cassidy and Ken Babbs played a crucial role in early hippie cultural evolution. Kesey was first busted and served time for weed, then hosted truly legendary LSD parties in the mid-sixties with the Grateful Dead providing the live music. The image of Kesey’s psychedelic bus with FURTHER as the destination and raving amphetamine-fueled Cassidy at the wheel is indelible. 

#7 U.S. Government

The Capitol Building at Dusk

Snarky choice, admittedly, but dovetails nicely with Kesey, in that it was the CIA-funded experiments with LSD that turned him on to acid in the first place. Importers of various substances from Asia and South America, though we can’t prove it. Probably a helluva lot more we don’t know. Big Pharma anyone?

#6 Cheech & Chong

Cheech and Chong in Up in Smoke

Cheech and Chong the dynamic space coke snorting weed smokers who met by simple chance when Cheech Marin escaped the military draft by fleeing to Canada like many hippies of the time. There he met a Canadian citizen by the name of Tommy Chong. They started doing standup shows and by 1978 they made their first feature length movie, “Up In Smoke.” The movie was a smash that catapulted the duo to super-stardom.

They made more movies that included Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, Nice Dreams, and more. The two also had success as solo acts, but nobody will ever forget that “Dave’s not here man.”

#5 Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison 1969

First song on the Doors’ first album: Break on Through, about dropping acid. Wrote the lyrics to the first couple albums while tripping on a Venice rooftop and the beach. Made up the lyrics to The End live onstage while wasted on LSD. Unfortunately spiraled down into booze… he shoulda stuck with the acid.

#4 Bob Marley

The Legend Bob Marley

His legacy as a supreme musical talent is monumental, needless to say, as is his herbal advocacy. We so wish he could have survived to see the modern era, with the ongoing push towards full legalization. Gets huge bonus points for the lyric: “Rasta don’t work for no CIA.” 

#3 Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix 1967

Purple Haze, Are You Experienced?… Seeing Hendrix on acid was overwhelming and crucial. One legend states that Hendrix used to put acid underneath his bandana during concerts to expand his mind and creativity. Did he? We don’t know for sure. We do know that there has never been another drug icon so monumental and important to the growth of not only Rock ‘n’ Roll and Blues, but to the world.

#2 Tim Leary

Tim Leary 1989

“Turn on, Tune in, and Drop out.” Yup yup. Made some bad choices later, but popularized psychedelics with massive effectiveness. Early research with Richard Alpert/Ram Das was vital. Founding member of the top 60s drug icons. Ya hadda be there, baby.

#1 Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson in Long Beach, CA. 1989

Well, what did you expect from Gonzo Today? We’re never gonna get past that opening page of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Major Honorary Mentions:

*Stanley Owsley – The legendary manufacturer of LSD ought to be on the list, but we can’t figure out who to bump down.

*Alexander ‘Sasha’ Shulgin and his wife Ann Shulgin – Magical psychedelic laboratory creators of MDMA and book writers, and difficult to briefly summarize. Unaware? Google them up.

*Grace Slick – Attempted to dose Nixon with acid at the White House, wow. White Rabbit. Yeah baby.

*Judy Garland – Icon and notorious pill- popper. Not her fault the studio hooked her on stimulants and sleeping pills as a kid. During the filming of The Wizard of Oz was pursuing fellow Hollywood star and fellow drug abuser Oscar Levant, who said “If we had ever married she would have given birth to a sleeping pill instead of a child – we could have named it Barb-ituate.”

Judy Garland

*Steve Jobs – high-profile proponent of LSD micro dosing, and took dedicated blasts as well. Associated with cool stuff.

*Sigmund Freud – Cocaine, anyone?

*Samuel Coleridge – Opium, anyone?

*Pablo Escobar – …no comment. Got two mentions.

*John Cusack – Not only was he buddies with Hunter S. Thompson (we’ve all seen the picture with the blow me up, suck me/fuck me doll with Thompson, Cusack and Depp) but he went on record once stating that one of his favorite things to do is go to Chicago Cubs games at Wrigley on LSD.

Thompson, Depp, Cusack, and we will call her Denise.

*Frank Zappa – Not a drug user, strictly speaking, but… Non-stop cigarettes and coffee use,  meaning caffeine and nicotine all the time – evil drugs, indeed.

*Dennis HopperBlue Velvet and Easy Rider, and more…

*Jerry Garcia – “Driving that train…” He and the Grateful Dead are iconic drug figures deluxe, complete with legions of fans that followed them from town to town on tour. 

*Keith Richards –  Inexplicably surviving, bless his heart. If you had told us he’d outlive Rolling Stones bandmate Charlie Watts, we flat-out wouldn’t have believed ya. 

*Jay and Silent Bob – Kevin Smith with and all the members of the View Askew Universe cemented themselves as the drug icons for Generation X. Movies like Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma not only are viewed and enjoyed by new generations of skeevy stoners around the world, but he kicked off the careers of many A-listers like Ben Affleck.

According to Kevin Smith’s Facebook, yesterday they finished shooting the movie Clerks 3!

Jay and Silent Bob

*Wu-tang Clan, Wiz Khalifa, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin… SO MANY GREAT ONES!!!

*Terrance McKenna – The outspoken proponent of ‘shrooms and DMT, McKenna, who died in 2000, was a prolific writer and lecturer who appeared in numerous films as well.  Author of True Hallucinations, a drug masterpiece. A compelling speaker and shamanic philosopher.

Ok, who’d we leave off? Got a comment?

Pitch: Follow Gonzo Today, on FaceBook or Instagram. Praise and constructive beefs welcome. 

Stay well, dear readers, and use your recreational time wisely. Hope you enjoyed these drug icons. Cheers!

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About Kyle K. Mann 86 Articles
Kyle K. Mann is the pen name of a contributor to, and publisher of, Gonzo Today. He lives high atop Topanga, California, where owls hoot and coyotes howl. A recording musician since the 70s and radio broadcaster in multiple fields in the '80s and '90s, Kyle sometimes supports himself part time as a Union film crew member in Hollywood. His articles and interviews first appeared in Gonzo Today in early 2015, and some of them are fairly good.