George Harrison’s Wife Said Cocaine ‘Hardened His Heart’: ‘It Changed Him’

Like many musicians in the 1970s, George Harrison used cocaine. It was readily available, and some artists have expressed regret that they didn’t know about the risk factors associated with the drug. According to Harrison’s first wife, Pattie Boyd, cocaine changed the former Beatle. She believed that the drug had an impact on Harrison’s emotions. 

A black and white picture of George Harrison wearing a patterned jacket.
George Harrison | Michael Putland/Getty Images

Pattie Boyd said George Harrison swung between cocaine use and meditation

According to Boyd, Harrison spent his time either meditating or partying. He would spend long periods of time doing one or the other before switching back. 

“He would be spiritual and clean and would meditate for hour after hour, with no chance of normality,” she wrote in the book Wonderful Tonight. “During those periods he was totally withdrawn and I felt alone and isolated. Then, as if all the pleasures of the flesh were too hard to resist, he would stop meditating, snort coke, have fun, flirting and partying. Although it was more companionable, there was no normality in that either.”

She said that both types of behavior made her feel increasingly distant from him.

She believed cocaine changed George Harrison

Boyd said that during periods when Harrison was not meditating, they began using cocaine.

“From time to time there might be some cocaine, which had crept into our repertoire,” she explained. “George developed an interesting and extreme relationship with it. He was either using it every day or not at all for months at a stretch.” 

Boyd began to worry when she noticed a distinct change in Harrison when he used the drug. While she had no problem with the drug in moderation, she grew concerned that he was using too much.

“Like everything, done in moderation it was fine,” she wrote. “Done to excess, it was not. George used coke excessively and I think it changed him.”

She believed cocaine had a damaging effect on his personality.

“Smoking marijuana changed us too, but it wasn’t destructive,” she wrote. “Dope in the sixties — a very different drug from the skunk kids smoke today — was about peace, love, and increasing awareness. It was the basis of flower power; it was innocent. Cocaine was different and I think it froze George’s emotions and hardened his heart.”

He said there were ways of getting high without drugs

When discussing LSD, Harrison noted that while he didn’t have a problem with the drug, he didn’t think it was the answer to everything. He thought that there were other, non-drug-related ways of getting high.

“For me, it was a good thing but it showed me that LSD isn’t really the answer to everything,” he said, per the book George Harrison on George Harrison. “It can help you to go from A to B, but when you get to B, you see C. And you see that to get really high, you have to do it straight. There are special ways of getting high without drugs — with yoga, meditation and all those things. So this was the disappointing thing about LSD.”

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

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