What do we mean when we say we are ‘giving up’?

Oscar Nemon’s statue of Sigmund Freud at the Tavistock Clinic glares out with such a contemptuous look of superior knowledge that Freud’s housekeeper told him it made him look too angry. ‘But I am angry,’ replied Freud. ‘I am angry with humanity.’ Meanwhile, the cover image of Adam Phillips’s new book on psychoanalysis is a detail of a figure from Michelangelo’s ‘Last Judgment’, cast down to damnation, face in hand, his eyes wracked with fear and regret, his muscular ring finger grinding anxiously into his muscular forehead. If you didn’t recognise him from the Sistine Chapel you could imagine an angry Freud, not an impassive Christ, glaring at him just

What do sugar and cocaine have in common?

Stephen Fry is a national treasure whom half the nation can’t stand. He drops his façade of loveability mid-chortle as soon as Brexit is mentioned. He threw a spectacularly pompous Remainer wobbly a few weeks ago and I remember thinking: is he determined to make the people he disdains actively hate him? If so, it’s working. Last weekend Fry was on John Cleese’s GB News chat show, talking about his former cocaine habit and its connection to his adolescent consumption of sugar. He mentioned the sweets in the shape of cigarettes that were sold at his school tuck shop. As he put it: ‘When I was a teenager, I had

They call me the ‘problem teetotaller’

My guts went on strike last July. I was staying in a hotel and I spent several days sprawled on the bed, vomiting occasionally, eating and drinking nothing and barely able even to wet my lips with water. Meanwhile, a bottle of Prosecco offered by the management stood untouched next to the widescreen TV. I started to wonder if this was my Frank Skinner moment. My farewell to booze. In his memoirs, Skinner describes how he gave up drinking by accident in his twenties when a virus confined him to his bed for a week and destroyed his interest in alcohol. Restored to health, he went back to the pub

‘We are stuck like chicken feathers to tar’: Elizabeth Taylor’s description of the fabled romance

‘To begin at the beginning,’ intones Richard Burton with a voice like warm treacle at the start of the 1971 film Under Milk Wood. It’s hard to imagine an actor more obviously influenced by his own beginnings. The epigraph to this double biography is ‘The damp, dark prison of eternal love’, a line borrowed from Quentin Crisp. And if that’s an accurate assessment of Burton’s on-off-on-again relationship with the actress Elizabeth Taylor, it’s an even better summary of his childhood in Wales. Born Richard Walter Jenkins to a barmaid mother and a coal miner father (a ‘12-pints-a-day man’ who sometimes disappeared for weeks on end to drink and gamble), as

Are hallucinogenic drugs losing their stigma?

We are in the midst of a ‘psychedelic renaissance’. Not since the 1950s and early 1960s has there been so much interest in researching the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. The FDA approved a ketamine derivative for medicinal use in 2019, and has given both MDMA and psilocybin (the psycho-active ingredient in magic mushrooms) ‘breakthrough therapy’ status, putting the drugs on a fast track to approval in the US, with the UK likely to follow suit. Professor David Nutt is a neuropsycho-pharmacologist (say that three times fast) and head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College, London. He was the UK’s ‘drug tsar’ before getting sacked in 2009 for

‘I disliked him intensely’: Richard Lewis on first meeting Larry David

Richard Lewis has died at the age of 76. Ben Lazarus interviewed him for the magazine last year: Richard Lewis first met Larry David at a summer sports camp, aged 12. ‘I disliked him intensely. He was cocky, he was arrogant,’ Lewis says. ‘When we played baseball I tried to hit him with the ball: we were arch rivals. I couldn’t wait for the camp to be over just to get away from Larry. I’m sure he felt the same way.’ Eleven years later they met again on the New York stand-up scene – but didn’t recognise each other. One evening, as they drank into the night, it dawned on

The Premier League’s sleeping pill problem

The footballer Dele Alli was applauded recently after he spoke of his sleeping pill abuse. ‘It’s a problem not only I have. It’s going around more than people realise in football,’ he said during a filmed interview with Manchester United’s former captain Gary Neville. It’s not the first time we’ve heard this. Footballers are ‘taking too many sleeping tablets and painkillers’ and addiction is becoming a ‘big issue’, former pro Ryan Cresswell warned last year. (He said his own addiction left him ‘gripping on for dear life’.) He claimed the problem is affecting stars at the very top level: ‘For me, it started with one after every game… to one

My life as a meth addict

I’ve spent most of my adult life addicted to amphetamines, including crystal meth. I first tried speed when I was 17 at a techno party while visiting Germany. I had been struggling with my A-levels and always found school hard because I was constantly exhausted, sleeping for 12 hours a day and still falling asleep during lessons. I was depressed and sometimes felt like I didn’t want to live any more. Speed changed all that. For the first time ever, I was motivated, I could concentrate and I felt that I could deal with life. I went from failing school to becoming a straight-A student, and I honestly don’t think

Has gambling become the great British addiction?

When I was 14 my father took me to a bookmaker’s and encouraged me to place a bet. He wanted to show me the futility of gambling, I think. Big mistake. I picked a horse called Maroof at 66/1 in the Queen Elizabeth II stakes at Ascot. My father put on 50p each way. Maroof romped to victory, no problem. ‘I think I’ve just ruined your character,’ said my father, not entirely joking, as he handed over the winnings. He had. I’ll forever associate betting with that triumph – the rush of joy I felt jumping up and down on the cruddy red carpet surrounded by Irish drunks and cigarette

The scandal of OxyContin, the painkiller that caused untold pain

Last week I was staying in a cool hotel in the middle of San Francisco. When I walked out to find coffee in the morning, I came across a man with his trousers lowered as he injected himself in the groin. An older fellow nearby used the street as a toilet, adding to the human excrement on the pavement. A woman lay crashed out, hair matted over her face in the heat. Returning later in the day, passing the clusters of tents and people chasing dragons from foil, I was asked: ‘Do you want anything?’ These disturbing scenes of human despair were beside a smart shopping mall in the city