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An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud,…
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An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle…

by Howard Markel

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Sigmund Freud and William Halstead are analyzed in this work of history and biography. Both men began experimenting with cocaine when it was newly available as a refined drug in the 1880s. Freud took oral or nasal doses, and reported on the general effects on energy, appetite, and mood. He missed completely the events of cocaine as a local anesthetic. Although Freud noticed the numbness of the lips or nose with local application, Carl Koller became famous for demonstrating its use for eye operations in 1884. Halstead experimented with cocaine as a local anesthetic, injecting himself as a test subject first, but rapidly proceeding to using IV injections to obtain a significant euphoria, and within months was disabled, abandoned a patient in the OR, and after a long sea voyage with a friend failed to help, he had to be sent to an asylum, the Bulter home in Providence RI. He managed to aovid cocaine for a while, with the insistence and help of William Welch (the dean of Hopkins medical school) but started using morphine to counteract the withdrawal, and continued to use it throughout his career as the chief surgeon at Johns Hopkins. Halstead periodically relapsed and took cocaine vacations.
Freud tried to use cocaine to treat morphine addiction in a fellow physician; the effects lasted only a few weeks, and the physician continued to decline for years. He wrote a long review “Uber Coca” on its mental effects and general uses. He increased its use for patients as an application to the nasal passages while collaborating with William Fliess, who had odd theories about how the nose affected bodily health, until Fliess left nasal packing in a woman he and Freud had treated, resulting in a chronic infection. Freud became gradually disenchanted with cocaine, and was probably able to stop using it after a few years.
Fascinating volume, organized well, author a bit involved with and sympathetic to the extremes of the recovery faith. ( )
  neurodrew | Mar 17, 2012 |
In “An Anatomy of Addiction” Dr. Markel braids these men’s stories intricately, intelligently and often elegantly. His book, worthy on many levels, suffers from a pervasive mildness, a certain PBS-ness of the soul. There are few memorable sentences or ecstatic insights. Clichés (“green around the gills,” “avoid like the plague”) dot the surface. This book seems to have been composed not on Bolivian marching powder but on chamomile tea.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375423303, Hardcover)

From acclaimed medical historian Howard Markel, author of When Germs Travel, the astonishing account of the years-long cocaine use of Sigmund Freud, young, ambitious neurologist, and William Halsted, the equally young, pathfinding surgeon. Markel writes of the physical and emotional damage caused by the then-heralded wonder drug, and how each man ultimately changed the world in spite of it—or because of it. One became the father of psychoanalysis; the other, of modern surgery.
 
Both men were practicing medicine at the same time in the 1880s: Freud at the Vienna General Hospital, Halsted at New York’s Bellevue Hospital. Markel writes that Freud began to experiment with cocaine as a way of studying its therapeutic uses—as an antidote for the overprescribed morphine, which had made addicts of so many, and as a treatment for depression.
 
Halsted, an acclaimed surgeon even then, was curious about cocaine’s effectiveness as an anesthetic and injected the drug into his arm to prove his theory. Neither Freud nor Halsted, nor their colleagues, had any idea of the drug’s potential to dominate and endanger their lives. Addiction as a bona fide medical diagnosis didn’t even exist in the elite medical circles they inhabited.
 
In An Anatomy of Addiction, Markel writes about the life and work of each man, showing how each came to know about cocaine; how Freud found that the drug cured his indigestion, dulled his aches, and relieved his depression. The author writes that Freud, after a few months of taking the magical drug, published a treatise on it, Über Coca, in which he described his “most gorgeous excitement.” The paper marked a major shift in Freud’s work: he turned from studying the anatomy of the brain to exploring the human psyche.
 
Halsted, one of the most revered of American surgeons, became the head of surgery at the newly built Johns Hopkins Hospital and then professor of surgery, the hospital’s most exalted position, committing himself repeatedly to Butler Hospital, an insane asylum, to withdraw from his out-of control cocaine use.
 
Halsted invented modern surgery as we know it today: devising new ways to safely invade the body in search of cures and pioneering modern surgical techniques that controlled bleeding and promoted healing. He insisted on thorough hand washing, on scrub-downs and whites for doctors and nurses, on sterility in the operating room—even inventing the surgical glove, which he designed and had the Goodyear Rubber Company make for him—accomplishing all of this as he struggled to conquer his unyielding desire for cocaine.
 
An Anatomy of Addiction tells the tragic and heroic story of each man, accidentally struck down in his prime by an insidious malady: tragic because of the time, relationships, and health cocaine forced each to squander; heroic in the intense battle each man waged to overcome his affliction as he conquered his own world with his visionary healing gifts. Here is the full story, long overlooked, told in its rich historical context.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:24 -0400)

The astonishing account of the decades-long cocaine use of Sigmund Freud and William Halsted. The author discusses the physical and emotional damage caused by the constant use of the then-heralded wonder drug, and of how each man ultimately changed the world in spite of it--or because of it.… (more)

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