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Drugs & Health Blog

What Was Down that Rabbit Hole, Alice?

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Image Courtesy of tWo pInK pOSsuMs

Sara Bellum

Talking rabbits who are always late, Mad Hatter tea parties, a grinning cat: enter the fantasy world of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s classic book of childhood imagination.

Since Alice was published in 1865, readers and critics have wondered about the author’s own state of mind when he created this “other” world in literature. So here’s the question:

Was Lewis Carroll high when he wrote his most famous books?

Alice’s adventures do sound out of the ordinary—and Tim Burton’s extreme take on the book in his new movie is getting people talking. But no evidence exists that supports the idea that Carroll wrote this story under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In fact, Carroll invented most of the Alice stories during a boat trip with a friend and the real Alice and her sisters before he ever put her adventures down on paper. He recited the story aloud as the others on the boating party rowed.

So, where did this idea come from?

Psychiatrists who introduced LSD into our society may have had a hand in starting this rumor—or at least the supporters of the 1960’s LSD subculture did. But in fact, LSD didn’t even exist when Alice in Wonderland was written!  Besides, Lewis Carroll’s writing is much too imaginative and clever to be done by someone on drugs.  He was an inventive man, fascinated by mathematics, puzzles, wordplay and games, some of which appear in his books.

“‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice. That is what the story of Alice in Wonderland invites us to be. Tim Burton explained it this way in a recent interview: “The reason we did something with it is that it’s captured the imagination of people for a very long time. That’s why all those great stories stay around, because they tap into the things that people probably aren’t even aware of on a conscious level.”

Read Alice again, if you’ve already done so as a kid, or see the new movie. Just remember to keep a clear mind so you get the most you can out of the experience. Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton sure did.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


I think the LSD and Alice in Wonderland connection lies in the similarity of the LSD trip to Alice's experience in wonderland, not in whether or not Carroll was high at the time while writing the book. There were certainly imaginative and clever writers who used LSD to enhance their lives including Brave New World author Aldous Huxley, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest writer Ken Kesey. Psychiatrists are more interested in the medical utility of LSD than some silly rumor about Lewis Carroll. Thankfully the LSD research of the 1950's is starting once again after a 40 year research drought, with an FDA approved study on LSD's ability to ease end of life anxiety in terminally ill cancer patients.

My whole family have seen the movie, and we enjoyed it.


It's hard to tell whether Alice in Wonderland was written while on drugs. Many writers have wonderful imaginations. The same was said of Edgar Allen Poe and the "Raven". But I heard an interview with singer and songwriter Paul Simon and he said he was creative on and off drugs, so he's just plain creative no matter what.

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I find the content of the writing here reasonable, however pedantic and patronizing. By-golly, its as if Sarah Palin is your editor. Why not write to your audience with maturity and respect? SSDP Jason is right to recognize that there are also plenty of authors who are "imaginative and clever" and have used LSD and other psychotropics. Talking down to your audience will do little improve your odds of prevention.

alice in wonderland is a psychedelic movie.

however, i strongly disagree that it connotes LSD.

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I personly think see might of been high ALOT

if our mind is in the gutter then we might find thing there that belong in a gutter. [commercial link deleted]

going down the rabbit hole has also ben linked to psychoactive mushrooms from the roots of pine trees wich when picked looks like a tiny rabbit hole is left, wich were legal and available back then, and i believe the hookah you see in the first movie comes from the boot so opium is a possibility there

i dont think you understand how psychedelic drugs work. people arent high ALL the time, users get high occasionally, say, once every few days, and learn and grow and speculate on their exdperiences. the question of whether he was high or not while writing this book is ridiculous; nobody could write a book this long only while they're high, it's simply too much to deal with. It is quite probable, however, that he may have experimented and drawn some inspiration from drug use. There are SO many similarities between drug experiences and the experiences described in his book, that there is just no way that it was written with absolutely no drug influence. This coming from a recreational drug user. Alice shrinks when she drinks acid, grows bold when eating pot cake, the catarpillar is smoking a hookah of opium, mad hatter is drinking mushroom tea, red queen is sufering bipolar disorder as a result of continued ecstasy use, eats pot cake again from the white rabbit who is on cocaine. No coincidinces?

enjoyed it

"Besides, Lewis Carroll’s writing is much too imaginative and clever to be done by someone on drugs"
oh come on... several proficient and accomplished authors/artists have been under the influence of something while writing or creating art. Some of the greatest children's authors of all time were under the effects of LSD ex: Roald Dahl, William Goldman, E.E Milne. why would you discredit a person's ability to be imaginative or creative based on them using drugs? This article was carelessly written and not worth reading

I don't know about Lewis Carroll using LSD, but the Mad Hatter shows symptoms of mercury poisoning. Also, hat-makers used mercury to shine hats, so mercury poisoning was often common among hatters. Just putting that out there.

Nice article...thanks :)

The emotion that you're most likely to feel while under the influence of LSD is... LOVE!!! Overpowering, unconditional love for all living things, a deep reverence for reality and an emotional understanding of how everything in the universe is connected. This was my experience and also the experience of everyone I have spoken with about their LSD experiences. While it is true that LSD allows, nay, forces us to see our lives and our world *exactly* as it is while under the effects of the drug the experience is neutral. Neither terrifying nor blissful. This is part of what is often referred to as "ego death" and having this objective point of view can inspire us to make very positive changes in our lives. I personally suffered from depression and anxiety for over 10 years. I was in therapy and on all kinds of anti-depressants. I had mixed results at best. Later, I began practicing meditation on a regular basis and doing a lot of spiritual study. That was the first step. Then, after one or two acid trips I realized that my life was my responsibility and more importantly I had the courage to make it what I wanted it to be. I'm not saying LSD will fix everything in your life. It won't. You have to do the work yourself. LSD just might be the lightening blot that gives your flux capacitor the 1.21 jigawatts it needs (sorry for the Back to the Future reference). But don't take my word for it do your own research.
Lewis was definitely on LSD while writing this book i think the whole movie was about Alice having a bad trip.