Acclaimed medical historian Howard Markel traces the careers of two brilliant young doctors—Sigmund Freud, neurologist, and William Halsted, surgeon—showing how their powerful addictions to cocaine shaped their enormous contributions to psychology and medicine.
When Freud and Halsted began their experiments with cocaine in the 1880s, neither they, nor their colleagues, had any idea of the drug's potential to dominate and endanger their lives. 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. 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. Here is the full story, long overlooked, told in its rich historical context.
In the 1880s, Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, and William Halsted, the founder of modern surgery, independently and personally discovered the powerful anesthetic, and terribly addictive, effects of cocaine. Markel (Quarantine!), a medical historian at the University of Michigan, eloquently tells the parallel stories of these two pathbreaking physicians and how their stories intersect in remarkable and sometimes tragic ways. The ready availability of cocaine starting in the 1860s drove Freud to experiment with the drug as an antidote to morphine addiction. Using cocaine to treat his own migraines and anxiety, he became addicted. At about the same time, when surgery remained dangerous because of easy infection and the lack of effective anesthetics, William Halsted in New York discovered the anesthetic effects of cocaine, and it appeared that the latter problem was solved; however, experimenting with cocaine himself, Halsted steadily sunk into such a terrible addiction that his brilliant career as a surgeon ended. Reviewing debates over the impact of addiction on the two physicians and why they fell prey to cocaine, Markel concludes simply and fairly that even these "intellectual giants were all too human." Markel's extraordinary achievement combines first-rate history of medicine and outstanding cultural history. Illus.