A Tale Of Two Addicts: Freud, Halsted And Cocaine : NPR
MARKEL: Well, Freud - and it was really fun to get to learn about Freud as a young, nervous man who was eager to make his career. We always think of Freud as this icon with that beard and that grim countenance. But he was a nervous fellow and wanted to make good. And he was looking for something that would make his name. And he practiced medicine in Vienna, which was the - probably the most competitive medical marketplace in the world at that time. The Vienna General Hospital was the place to train. And he knew if he was going to get a professorship, he would have to discover something great.
So he read various little case reports in the journals about how great cocaine was for fighting off depression or fatigue. And he found an interesting little report that it could help you if you had morphine addiction. And morphine and opium were terrifically overprescribed back then. And what the medical profession did was create a lot of addicts. And one of Sigmund’s best friends, a man named Fleischl Marxow, was a great physiologist who injured his hand. He had to have his thumb amputated, and he had terrible chronic pain. And he became a hopeless morphine addict.
So Sigmund wanted to help his friend. He also knew that if he could write this up, he could really become famous. And so he studied this. He began studying it in 1884, read the whole world’s literature on the topic, and wrote a very prominent monograph called “Uber Coca,” or “On Coca,” that really, you know, excited the entire medical world about all of its medical and therapeutic uses, except for one. He missed the major use of cocaine as a medical agent. It is a terrific local anesthetic.
FLATOW: And a few months after Freud got his first shipment of cocaine in 1884, he wrote a letter to his fiancé describing how it feels. Can you read a little bit of that for us?