Tag Archives: fiction

Anatomy of Addiction (Sigmund Freud, William Halsted and the Miracle Drug; Cocaine) by Howard Markel

Standard

“I’ve studied psychology in school (along with a slew of other random things!) and found Freud to be my favourite. Sure, he was the guy that talked all about sex but he was also the guy that talked about dreams and the ego. He was quite controversial in his day and I always found his work and depth of thought to be so intriguing and inspiring. Thats how I was first draw to this book while I was searching for informative novels on addiction. But as I read the description, I found that he had a similar problem as me. He was a coke addict!

This book takes place back in the day but was incredibly relatable and filled with, well, Anatomy of Addiction! Not all of people like these kinds of non-fiction but I have enjoyed it thus far and I am very excited to finish it!” -Love and light, Robyn

Image

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.

Advertisements

Must Read: Memoirs of An Addicted Brain- A Neuroscientist Examines His For

Standard

“This is an absolutely fabulous book that is not just about the struggle of addiction but how addiction works. I could really relate to this book because like me, Lewis traveled halfway around the world and still managed to use. His talk of the hippy scene still is in existence today and it was similar to what I fell into… Its a great read for any addict struggling with addiction, reminding you of where you came from and how you came to be trapped in the cycle of this disease. Below is a review from Scientific America.” – Love, Robyn

Image

Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines His Former Life on Drugs
by Marc Lewis. PublicAffairs, 2012

Why do we crave things and seek them compulsively, despite the consequences? As a junkie who kicked the habit and became a neuroscientist, Lewis is uniquely positioned to answer these questions.

Each chapter of Lewis’s memoirs recounts an episode of his life: as a homesick 15-year-old at a prep school in New Jersey, where he got drunk and smoked pot for the first time; then as a Berkeley undergraduate during the hippie heyday of the late 1960s, when he experimented with methamphetamines, LSD and heroin. In the jungles of Malaysia he sniffed nitrous oxide and bought heroin directly from the factory, and in Calcutta he frequented opium dens. Back in his hometown of Toronto, Lewis descended into a life of addiction, desperation and petty crime.

Lewis also weaves in how each drug acts on the brain. LSD, he explains, alters sensory information, so that “perception opens up into this massive cascade of colors, shapes and patterns,” whereas heroin produces a dramatic shift in brain physiology to put one “into a state of safety, comfort, warmth [and] pleasure.” The book effortlessly explores the experience of being under their influence. Lewis explains how cycles of anticipation and reward are fundamental to the human condition, drawing parallels between drug addiction and our cravings, such as sex, money or material goods. Drug addiction, however, is far more powerful, as it mercilessly hijacks the brain’s reward circuitry, priming us to single-mindedly seek out these chemical rewards at the expense of relationships and work. Lewis eventually climbed out of addiction and returned to school to focus on psychology and neuroscience. “Drawn by a need to understand my own dark years, I came around—full circle—to study the neuroscience of addiction,” he writes.

Even after 30 years of being clean, addicts’ brains are wired to desire narcotics, leaving them “vulnerable for the rest of their lives.” For Lewis, filling his life with a meaningful career and a loving family has helped him resist those temptations.