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Drugs and Junky

William S. Burroughs’s fascination with and addiction to drugs are a defining element of his life and writing. In addition to populating his fiction with addicts and drug references, Burroughs wrote numerous articles, essays, and other experimental prose pieces on various aspects of drugs and drug use.

The Yage Letters

William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg
The Yage Letters. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1963.
From the Library of Robert A. Wilson

The Yage Letters contains Burroughs’s mid-1950s correspondence with Allen Ginsberg concerning his pursuit in Colombia of the legendary hallucinogen yage. Further correspondence on this topic is collected in Letters to Allen Ginsberg, 1953-1957 (1982).

APO-33William S. Burroughs
Health bulletin APO-33, a Metabolic Regulator. A Report on the Synthesis of the Apomorphine Formula. New York City: The Fuck You Press, 1965.
Inscribed by William S. Burroughs "to Bob Wilson" on the front cover.
From the Library of Robert A. Wilson

During the mid-1960s, Burroughs became an outspoken proponent of the apomorphine treatment for addiction, which he underwent in England, claiming that its illegal status in the United States was the result of a conspiracy between the Food and Drug Administration, police, and legal authorities. His arguments are presented in Health Bulletin, APO 33: A Report on the Synthesis of the Apomorphine Formula (1965) and APO 33, a Metabolic Regulator (1966). The 1965 printing is considered the scarcest title in the Burroughs bibliography. Approximately twenty copies of Health bulletin APO-33, a Metabolic Regulator were mimeographed by Ed Sanders under his legendary Fuck You Press imprint; however, Burroughs was not pleased with the layout and quality of the printing and fewer than a dozen copies were actually issued with only a small number of copies extant today. This copy was given by Sanders to Robert A. Wilson, the proprietor of the Phoenix Book Shop. The book was edited and reprinted in 1966, with some text omitted, by the artists Mary Beach and Claude Pélieu.

"William Burroughs Speaks!" The Marijuana Newsletter! No. 1 (30 January 1965)

This underground mimeograph newsletter published by LEMAR (LEgalize MARijuana) lasted only two issues; William S. Burroughs appears in both numbers.

JunkieJunkie, by William Lee. New York, N.Y.: Ace Books, 1953.
Burroughs's pseudonymous first book is this paperback original, bound back-to-back with Maurice Helbrant's Narcotic Agent. Junkie was a straightforward narrative of Burroughs's experiences with drugs; the publisher chose to release it couched in an anti-drug context, as a first-person example of the horrors of drug use and bound with a narcotic agent's memoir.

Junkie. London: New English Library, 1966.
Burroughs's classic first novel was published in the Olympia Press Traveler's Companion Series thirteen years after its original publication.


Junky: The Definitive Text of “Junk”; edited and with an introduction by Oliver Harris. New York: Penguin Books, 2003. The Burroughs scholar Oliver Harris has painstakingly recreated the author's original text from archival typescripts and places the book's contents against a lively historical background in a comprehensive introduction. Here as well, for the first time, are Burroughs's own unpublished introduction and an entire omitted chapter, along with many "lost" passages, as well as auxiliary texts by Allen Ginsberg and others.

The Amazing Truth about a Junkie

"The Amazing Truth About a Junkie," in Man's Wildcat Adventures 1 (June 1959)
This classic 1950s men's magazine features a lengthy excerpt from Junkie. Here, as is true with the Ace Books edition, Burroughs is marketed by the publishing industry as a sensationalistic, pulp, exploitation writer, despite the fact that Junkie is a serious, objective look at contemporary drug culture.


Jiyanki. Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2003.
This Japanese edition of Junky was translated by the great Japanese modernist poet Nobuo Ayukawa (1920-1986).

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