There is a claim that Lewis Carroll was on drugs of some sort when he wrote Alice in Wonderland (or that the book is about drug use). Regardless of the truth (or lack thereof) of these claims, what are the origins of these claims? Can they be traced back to any specific individual(s) or time period?


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Unlike Coleridge, for example, the question "Was Carroll on drugs?" does not exist in the literature. As a consequence, there is not a single whiff of drugs in either the Wikipedia entry on Lewis Carroll nor the entry for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Google scholar searches yields only the the medical condition called Alice in Wonderland syndrome.

Alice in Wonderland syndrome is a disorienting neuropsychological condition that affects perception. People experience size distortion such as micropsia, macropsia, pelopsia, or teleopsia. Size distortion may occur of other sensory modalities.

It is often associated with migraines, and the use of psychoactive drugs. It can also be the initial symptom of the Epstein–Barr virus (see mononucleosis).3 AiWS can be caused by abnormal amounts of electrical activity causing abnormal blood flow in the parts of the brain that process visual perception and texture.4

Anecdotal reports suggest that the symptoms are common in childhood,4 with many people growing out of them in their teens. It appears that AiWS is also a common experience at sleep onset,5 and has been known to commonly arise due to a lack of sleep.

Searching Google books in tight date ranges, 1900-1950, 1950-1960, 1960-1970, etc, yields only the above medical condition. The first reference to the question "Was Carroll on drugs?" seems to be the 1993 Opium as a Possible Influence upon the Alice Books, which seems to be a "blog post", unpublished at least (and hence not in any of the Wikipedia entries).

While not a question in the literature, the question "Was Carroll on drugs?" must be a question, since it has an answer, namely no.

How do we reconcile the fact that "Was Carroll on drugs?" is a question with an answer, but not a question in the literature?

I hypothesise that whenever we, the reader, read a surreal text, a few of us ask the question "is it about drugs, man?" Now we have Google to immediately give the answer. In this case, the answer is no.

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