Inside Keith Richards’ History With Drugs

The Rolling Stones have been together for a long time. Formed in London in 1962, the band has gone through several transitions, most of which have been fueled by the elements that have groomed them over decades — sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll.

Band members of The Rolling Stones have had several stories with drug encounters, but perhaps none of them may have gone through a drug-fueled experience comparable to what the band’s lead guitarist Keith Richards has been through. The rockstar has even admitted to it — “I’ve done so much bloody blow in my life, I don’t miss it an inch. I think it gave me up,” Richards, 77, wrote in his memoir “Life.”

Richards’ notoriety with drugs does not end here. He’s said to have snorted his dead father’s ashes with a line of cocaine. “He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow,” Richards told NME magazine. “My dad wouldn’t have cared, he didn’t give a s**t. It went down pretty well, and I’m still alive.”

So, how intense was Richards’ association with drugs, and how much trouble he got into because of its possession or consumption? Also, how did using drugs influence Richards’ music style?

Keith Richards was charged with heroin possession and trafficking, and much more

Out of all the places, Keith Richards may have a hard time forgetting Canada. The year was 1977. Canadian police found an ounce of heroin in Richards’ room, and the rocker was looking at a lengthy prison sentence, as the charges would also include drug trafficking. Much drama followed the incident.

Richards posted bond and asked for a special visa to let him undergo an addiction program in the U.S. Richards later wrote in his memoir “Life” that at his court hearings, “there were five to six hundred people outside every time I turned up in court, chanting, ‘Free Keith, free Keith.'”

Nothing much became of the case. According to CBC, Richards was released with a community-service sentence, which he served by playing a benefit concert for the blind. Richards may have got lucky as one of his fans, Rita, pleaded on his behalf. However, the Toronto incident was not all. Over the years, Richards has been charged several times for drug usage and possession — so much so that the French government had no choice but to exile him. 

However, there was a reason behind Richard’s persistence with drugs, one that he said allowed him to consume it more than other people.

Keith Richards thought he had a high tolerance for drugs

Keith Richards wrote in his book (via the BBC) that being rich allowed him to consume more substance than other drug users. However, that did not make him forget the limits. The guitarist was “very meticulous” about how much drugs he consumed and would “never put more in to get a little higher.”

“It’s the greed involved that never really affected me. People think once they’ve got this high, if they take some more they’re going to get a little higher. There’s no such thing. Especially with cocaine,” he explained in his autobiography, adding that “taking dope” made him feel convinced that his body was a temple.

Richards’ perspective on drug tolerance is subjective and even doctors have a hard time explaining how he has survived so long with his sheer volume of drug consumption. “Whether it’s genetic or because he’s built up a tolerance, he does seem to have an unusually resilient constitution,” Dr. Lefever told BBC in 2010, warning that it was not something someone could take for granted. “For every Keith Richards, there are many, many more who die,” explained the doctor.

Others believe that it’s just him. According to music journalist David Quantick, “it’s almost as though others die so that Keith Richards may live.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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