David Bowie experimented with a range of drugs between the 1960s and the 1980s. He was famously addicted to cocaine from the mid-1970s, and relocated to Berlin in an attempt to kick his habit, although it would take several more years before he finally got clean.

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The music is just an extension of me, so the question really is, What have drugs done to me? They’ve fucked me up, I think. Fucked me up nicely and I’ve quite enjoyed seeing what it was like being fucked up.
David Bowie
Playboy, September 1976

It is impossible to say how Bowie’s life and career might have differed without drugs, and his cultural achievements would doubtless have been groundbreaking and hugely significant without them.

And yet, drugs did change Bowie’s songwriting, voice, productivity, creative decisions, beliefs, relationships, and numerous other facets of his life, and as such deserve to be given appropriate consideration.

1960s – part one

At first it was the lighter drugs, pills maybe, during the London period in the Sixties. Then it was cocaine in a very serious manner around 1974. The Sixties didn’t have the hostility and violence – spiritual violence, emotional violence – that was part and parcel of the Seventies.
David Bowie
Arena, May/June 1993

David Bowie was born in January 1947. He began using drugs in the early 1960s, and as a teenaged mod he used amphetamines and other stimulants including cocaine, and later dabbled with cannabis.

I’d done a lot of pills ever since I was a kid. Thirteen or fourteen. But the first time I got stoned on grass was with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin many, many years ago, when he was still a bass player on Herman’s Hermits records. We’d been talking to Ramblin’ Jack Elliot somewhere and Jonesy said to me, “Come over and I’ll turn you on to grass.” I thought about it and said, “Sure, I’ll give it a whirl.” We went over to his flat – he had a huge room, with nothing in it except this huge vast Hammond organ – right next door to the police department.

I had done cocaine before but never grass. I don’t know why it should have happened in that order, probably because I knew a couple of merchant seamen who used to bring it back from the docks. I had been doing it with them. And they loathed grass. So I watched in wonder while Jonesy rolled these three fat joints. And we got stoned on all of them. I became incredibly high and it turned into an in-fucking-credible hunger. I ate two loaves of bread. Then the telephone rang. Jonesy said, “Go and answer that for me, will you?” So I went downstairs to answer the phone and kept on walking right out into the street. I never went back. I just got intensely fascinated with the cracks in the pavement.

David Bowie
Playboy, September 1976
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Bowie took LSD in the 1960s, although he found the experiences underwhelming.

I did [it] three times. It was very colorful, but I thought my own imagination was already richer. Naturally. And more meaningful to me. Acid only gives people a link with their own imagery. I already had it. It was nothing new to me. It just sort of made a lot of fancy colors. Flashy lights and things. “Oh, look. I see God in the window.” So what? I never needed acid to make music, either.
David Bowie
Playboy, September 1976