Better Living through Crime Fiction: “Novel” Alternatives to Popular Drugs

Mind-altering substances needn’t always come in the form of a pill, plant, capsule, tab, or tincture. Sometimes they come in the form of a crime novel.

We’ve all read great mysteries, thrillers, and noir that created a prodigious shift in our perspective, mindset, or mood—even if only temporarily. Getting high on crime fiction is not only more natural and organic than getting high on drugs, it doesn’t require you to deal with any shady or dangerous dealers to get your fix—unless you buy directly from the author.

The next time you feel the urge to pop an upper or a downer, or to trip or roll, consider reading some crime fiction instead. Below is a list of some of the most popular types of drugs and medications—each followed by three crime novels that will help you experience the same or similar effect offered by the substance in question.


Drug: Antidepressants

Intended effect: To help you feel that life isn’t as cold and hopeless and alienating and dangerous as it seems. Or to at least make you laugh at the fact that it is that cold and hopeless and alienating and dangerous.

Books to try: Be Cool by Elmore Leonard; One for the Money by Janet Evanovich; My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite


Drug: Marijuana

Intended effect: To relax and chill—before the inevitable onset of crippling paranoia.

Books to try: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena; Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke; Signal by Patrick Lee


Drug: Amphetamines (and cocaine)

Intended effect: To make you feel exhilarated and almost invincible—right up until you crash into a mountainside or God.

Books to try: Falling by T.J. Newman; American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis; Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby;  


Drug: Opioids

Intended effect: To create a feeling of euphoric numbness and detachment to help distract from the fact that everything is broken AF.

Books to try: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh; The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks; Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney


 Drug: Hallucinogens

 Intended effect: To make your mind laugh in your face and remove all the blinders installed by your mother and the government.

 Books to try: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane; Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson; Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk


Drug: Laxatives

Intended effect: To cause you to lose your sh*t.

Books to try: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, The Hole by Hye-young Pyun; Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

I realize this isn’t even close to an exhaustive list. Surely there are some other books you’d like to add to one or more of the categories mentioned above. Or some other categories you’d like to add—along with some books you feel would fit well within them. Share in the “Comments” section below.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go catch a nice cri-fi high.


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    Thank you for providing this excellent alternative to a traditional crime novel. It is advantageous for me as a writer, because I frequently create these types of blogs, to publish them on Wikipedia.

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