Sherlock Holmes Research Paper

Sherlock Holmes is a prominent figure in Victorian literature as well as modern television and film. He is a renowned character as he uses his sharp intellect to solve many mysterious crimes alongside his partner, John Watson. Holmes has a darker side that is often overlooked by many fans. His long history of drug use as well as the possibility of mental illness. Psychopathy, and addiction. Psychopathy otherwise known as, Antisocial Personality Disorder, is characterized by: deceitfulness, irresponsibility, manipulativeness, risk taking, aggression, irritability and impulsivity.

Addiction is a serious mental illness inflicting dependency and is caused by frequent drug use. Sherlock Holmes shows signs of frequent drug use and mental afflictions in both the original Doyle stories and the BBC adaptation Sherlock. Sherlock has been associated with tobacco for a large part of the stories. He has used it so much that he needs it for detective work. It is seen as a necessity in Doyle’s, The Man with the Twisted Lip. Holmes is seen having trouble with a case and tells Watson to leave him be as he needs to smoke for his ‘three pipe problem’.

This exact scene is alluded to in the BBC adaptation but, instead of being three pipes, it is three nicotine patches. Susan Zeigar, a specialist on nineteenth-century British literature, writes that “ tobacco simultaneously frees Holmes’s mind to soar and encages him in the armchair, where nicotine in the blood will supply the answers he seeks. Holmes is part genius, part nicotine junkie ” ( Zeigar 24 ). He resorts to using one of his most trustful tools, drugs. Sherlock has a issue if he needs to smoke to help him function properly to solve his case.

It is not normal for a person to be dependent on a substance to be able to work. He is so familiar with tobacco that in the novel, A Study in Scarlet, he is able to tell the brand of cigar from just its ashes. This extreme familiarity shows an underlying issue with our detective. If someone could tell the type of brand an alcoholic beverage, they would be deemed a drunkard. The same can be said for the tobacco connoisseur, Sherlock. Many readers of the stories should realize that, Sherlock Holmes has a drug dilemma. Holmes is not only well versed in tobacco, but also cocaine and heroin. Both of which are highly addictive.

His use in the more hardcore drugs is not as well known, yet still depicted in the Doyle stories, until the early 1900’s. Andrew Robinson, an author and a King’s scholar of Eton college, documented a change in Sherlock’s drug usage once the U. S classified opium and cocaine as narcotics. His use had become much less frequent when the U. S started to regulate and outlaw it. It could not merely be a coincidence that Doyle does not mention his use afterwards. The stories were sold and well known in the U. S. Doyle could have simply not wanted his character further associated with this, as it could damage his sales.

Much prior to this incident, Doyle published The Sign of Four in 1890. In this novel, Watson is noted as saying, “ [his] sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined arm-chair with a long sigh of satisfaction. Three times a day for many months I had witnessed this performance ( 4 ) . Watson is seeing Sherlock perform this so often that he later began to casually ask what drug he would use that day. This now normal occurrence, is damaging Sherlock, physically and mentally.

Heroin and cocaine are considered the most addictive drugs and Sherlock indulged himself in them for a prolonged period of time. Sherlock has injected so much of these drugs that the chances that he is not dependent on the drug are low. He is even described by Watson as having an innumerable amount of puncture marks from the amount of injections he took. Addiction is usually a debilitating disease which renders the user helpless to it. According to Allison Carey, a student who wrote an honors thesis on Sherlock, describes Sherlock’s addiction as “more of a conscious, daily habit” ( 11 ) .

Instead of being rendered incapable of functioning, it is just a daily routine that he does. It is not the usual case of addiction however; Sherlock cannot seem to kick the recurring habit. In the BBC adaptation, Sherlock is also depicted to have these same addictive tendencies. Being able to physically see the character in picture allows for more insight on the character. Not only can you see signs of addiction but, you can see his psychopathy as well. Throughout the series he is seen as using others for his own interests. He shows a no true respect for anyone, except Watson. Molly happens to be very attracted to Sherlock, and he knows this.

He uses this attraction to further his own plans and to get exactly what he wants. He is manipulative and shows no guilt for it. He also shows psychopathic behaviors such as irresponsibility and risk taking behaviors by putting his life on the line and finding himself in dangerous locations. In the Sherlock episode, His Last Vow, Watson accidently stumbles upon a disheveled Sherlock in a drug den. Watson scolds him and Sherlock tries to explain that he was ‘undercover’. Deceitfulness, also a symptom of psychopathy, is seen by Sherlock attempting to cover up his reason for being in a crack den.

He is forced to give a drug test and upon finding the results, Molly repeatedly slaps Sherlock across the face in anger. Watson tells Sherlock that if he was anywhere near the drugs, he could have called for help. Sherlock, again, says that it is for a case and he merely did it to be undercover. Sherlock is delusional and has already accepted his twisted version of the truth. Everyone else in the scene is in disbelief as their friend has gone back to his bad tendencies. This denial should be a red flag for many viewers. A common saying about addiction, is that the first step is acceptance.

Sherlock Holmes’s drug use is also a problem for those reading or watching the stories, especially children. Children aspire to be like their idols. If they read Doyle’s stories about Sherlock and begin to idolize the character, could we not assume they would not find his drug use as a problem? The stories have even become a part of various education boards in India. Teachers and professors in India are even saying that Sherlock’s smoking habits are unhealthy for children. Krishna, a assistant professor with a PhD, questions whether or not Sherlock Holmes is a children’s hero.

Krishna states that “ such romanticizing of smoking is not only undesirable but dangerous as children have impressionable minds” ( 19 ) . Sherlock can be detrimental to children due to this dark part of his life that is embedded in the stories. It is seen in the books, the films, and the shows. It is well known that Sherlock has issues with drugs and cannot truly be clean from them. Is this really a good role model for children to read and idolize? In the BBC adaptation, Sherlock is seen proclaiming himself as a sociopath. This however, is not the case.

Sherlock is a psychopath which has differences than sociopathy. Ragnhild Sollid, a Norwegian university graduate, wrote a master’s thesis on Sherlock and his psyche. He argues for Sherlock leaning more towards him being a psychopath since they are more likely to overreact than sociopaths. Sherlock is seen many times reacting in anger or frustration in the adaptation. He also has a superior sense of self-worth. He thinks much more highly of himself compared to others. All of which, entail the likelihood of his psychopathic behavior. The term, psychopath, does not mean a murderous or insane person.

It stems from antisocial personality disorder which Sherlock seems to have. The difficulty of all of this, is that Sherlock Holmes is not real. He is a fictitious character. Sollid puts into perfect words that “ the exercise of evaluating and diagnosing someone’s psychological condition is a very serious matter… I must therefore insist that this exercise in analysing Doyle’s famous sleuth in terms of personality disorders be regarded merely as a humble suggestion and not as a truth” (1) . Doyle never intended Sherlock to be written in terms of psychiatry.

He wrote him in an entertaining fashion to perplex and intrigue readers. Though limited to textual evidence, Doyle has written enough about Sherlock that he may well be a high-functioning addictive psychopath. He is deceitful, manipulative, irresponsible, and egotistical. All of which align with psychopathic behaviors. The difficulty comes again with reality; Sherlock is not real. There is no such thing as a diagnosis for a fictional character. No one can diagnose Sherlock with certainty. It can only be suggested that Sherlock Holmes could be a psychopathic drug addict, if he was real.