Sigmund Freud's cocaine problem
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was once one of cocaine’s leading medical advocates.
July 22nd, 2011
03:32 PM ET

Sigmund Freud's cocaine problem

Editor's note: Nearly 130 years ago, cocaine was the world’s newest wonder drug - touted as a cure for everything from morphine addiction to tuberculosis. And its biggest supporter was Sigmund Freud. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has the fascinating history and what it means for us today on "Sanjay Gupta M.D." at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

Whenever Big Pharma unfurls its latest “blockbuster” drug, I am carried back to the era when the biggest wonder drug on the market was cocaine. Yes, cocaine!

In the early 1880s, pharmaceutical houses touted it as a cure for everything from morphine addiction and depression to dyspepsia and fatigue. It was widely available in tonics, powders, wines and soft drinks before its mass consumption created a cadre of raging addicts demanding medical attention.

One of cocaine’s leading medical advocates was a struggling Viennese neurologist named Sigmund Freud. He began studying cocaine’s effects in 1884, and his clinical notebooks amply demonstrate that his favorite experimental subject was himself.

The evolution of the once 'wonder drug'

Initially, Sigmund was eager to employ cocaine as an antidote for his best friend’s morphine addiction. Ernst Fleischl-Marxow was a brilliant physiologist who injured his thumb while dissecting a cadaver, resulting in chronic pain tamed only by large doses of morphine.

Substituting one addictive drug for another was a common means of treating substance abuse in the late 19th century. What all these well-intentioned games of medical musical chairs did most reliably was to create “new and improved” addicts.

Freud, in essence, transformed his highly functioning, albeit opiate-dependent, friend into an addled cocaine and morphine addict who was dead seven years later at age 45.

One would think that this episode would have soured Freud on the drug. Yet like most humans ensnared by cocaine’s addictive grip, for the next 12 years, he continued to sing its praises and consumed a great deal of cocaine to quell his physical aches and mental anxieties. In a perverse way, Freud loved how cocaine made him talk endlessly about memories and experiences he previously thought were locked in his brain for no one to hear, let alone judge.

Freud’s most haunting encounter with the drug occurred in 1895 after he and a colleague named Wilhelm Fleiss nearly killed a patient named Emma Eckstein with a botched operation and too much cocaine. Several nights later, he had a disturbing dream about a party where Eckstein blamed Freud for his gross negligence.

Today, Eckstein is better known as “Irma," the pseudonym Freud gave her in his masterpiece, "The Interpretation of Dreams." When writing about his dream, Freud glossed over his obvious malpractice, an act that today would have resulted in disgrace, loss of medical license, lawsuits and even jail time.

Instead, Freud explained the dream meant he was a caring doctor who was, if anything, overly concerned about his patient, “Irma."

Like so many others, Freud suffered from the most maddening symptom of addiction: the stealthy process by which the addict’s mind conspires to convince that nothing, nothing at all, is askew or dangerous about something that most decidedly is.

Indeed, if one set out to design addiction as an implacable disease, he would be hard pressed to come up with a more diabolical symptom than denial, the need to lead a double life - feeding the addiction in private while struggling to starve, or at least conceal, it in public for long periods of time.

Until, that is, the addiction completely takes over with disastrous results and public masquerade is no longer possible.

One assumes that his clinical experiences with Eckstein, if not Fleischl-Marxow, taught him that cocaine was far too dangerous for any therapeutic application. In the fall of 1896, the day after his father’s funeral, Freud claimed to have put his “cocaine brush” aside. No documentary evidence exists to refute his testimony.

But for the remaining days of his life, Freud had far greater difficulty in fully comprehending the dangerous consequences of his substance abuse. He decidedly, and repeatedly, misinterpreted his famous dream of cocaine. Instead, he chose to elaborate a far more flattering and positive analysis that epitomizes an addiction’s power of subterfuge.

The man who invented psychoanalysis, a revolutionary pursuit for self-truth, succumbed to the same “big lie” most every practicing addict tells himself every day.

Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, is the author of "An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine" (Pantheon).

Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter

Watch Sanjay Gupta MD Saturday at 4:30pm and Sunday at 7:30am ET. For the latest from Sanjay Gupta MD click here.

soundoff (998 Responses)
  1. aralen buy online

    hydrocholorquine buy aralen online uk hydrochlroquine

    June 8, 2021 at 06:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. solar installation orange county


    June 8, 2021 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. all class rv yorba linda

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to revisit once again since i have book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.


    June 8, 2021 at 18:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Renovation Los Angeles


    June 8, 2021 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. orange county truck service


    June 8, 2021 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Internet Marketing Specialist


    June 9, 2021 at 06:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Hilton Reudink


    June 9, 2021 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Rhea Cini

    Itís difficult to find experienced people about this subject, however, you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks

    June 9, 2021 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Johnie Werntz

    Itís hard to come by well-informed people for this subject, however, you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks

    June 9, 2021 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Keitdp

    Interracial game in relation to Tumblr

    www. is definitely decorative and we've been encouraging schokofarbene single men and women and refined seek out an individuals over love long periods of time 13+! an advanced dunkelhrrutige partner want to purchase white-colored people, A bright white wow wish red the woman or even a sweetheart researching for men? This method to stay business rrn your case. we like to see you on that point. one wind up as warmly welcomed. by just setting up these 100% free link situation critiques reaching thousands of individuals like you who have an interest in interracial dating.that is not all, in contrast. has been a unusal black color vivid white seeing resource site automobile various unique things which are not offered by with assistance communities much like allow for core 24/7 players verification or. that we in addition provide a stay interracial doctor who may be on call each time during for people who have any asiame worries or things, Or to be able to the intimate relationship or suggestions about interracial seeing.welcome to the most important foundation dating foreign girls solutions for dark white wine american singles for.there is lots of turmoil associated at the moment. very stressful, tips popular dating facts and techniques is really mistaken and only good for in the near future fantastic. i know that your company agree with the fact that particular, It damages to check out unique songs adult dating and thus falling over crazy about an unacceptable ladies, after which they are splitting up as often as needed, ruining his great quality akin to middle residing.7 help and advice be certain to talk to whenever relationships In Interacial and simply quite a bit of MatchingThere confusion and stress around these days. the fact is, much of the popular relationship opinions rrs incredibly misleading in support of good for short-run enjoyment. i am sure everyone are in agreement that many, It damages come across recent american singles dating sites and therefore plunging in love with unwanted folk, and be able to breaking up often, ruining their valuable grade associated with essential residing.

    June 9, 2021 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. SEO Marketing Consultants

    An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a coworker who was conducting a little research on this. And he in fact bought me lunch due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss this matter here on your blog.


    June 9, 2021 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Bao Trilling

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who was doing a little research on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner because I discovered it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this subject here on your website.


    June 9, 2021 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Enid Essaid

    I like it when folks get together and share opinions. Great site, keep it up!


    June 9, 2021 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Janetta Brox

    You've made some decent points there. I checked on the web for more info about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.


    June 10, 2021 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. rv repair near me now


    June 10, 2021 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Katharine Bigwood


    June 10, 2021 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. rv repair shops near me

    I seriously love your site.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím planning to create my very own website and want to find out where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Appreciate it!


    June 10, 2021 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Jamesmap

    Tips on Write Engaging Profiles for Free Dating world-wide-web

    there's a lot of ways to attract potential singles on free dating websites. The in the beginning way is to write an engaging dating profile. What should you one point to note?Your dating profile is the first thing a person will read to familiarize yourself with you better, before selecting you as a potential partner on free dating websites. Among thousands of other eligible profiles, How do you ensure your profile stands apart? How do you make sure that the prospect of your profile being picked over many other people, recorded on free dating websites, Are superb? There are a few simple tips you can preserve in mind when writing your online profile. HeadlineThe headline of the dating profile allows you enable you to quickly summarize yourself as a person. So spend time on what you want others to think about you. Try and be classic and also witty. People remember wit and want to see something simple yet clever. This is your chance to make sure you grab a person's eye of your potential dates on the free dating websites. It is also a good idea to change the headline once in a while with something different. Be yourselfWhen writing your online dating profile for free dating websites, also remember, you should prepare attract potential partners to yourself. You do not want them to think you are somebody your not. So be yourself consistently, When currently talking about yourself. There is no point attracting somebody on such basis as a false notion. that won't last. Be honest about what you devote on your profile on free dating websites. But on the other hand be interesting. There are a lot of interesting ways to share with you godatenow yourself. anybody read other s profiles online, On free dating online services, They are more inclined approach people who sound happy and positive. So try and maintain positivity when you write your profile. Your tone and manner should reflect optimism and excitement. persons, Who sounds with life, Is that appears to be such. this kind of, You will get to be original about your ideas on yourself. It is not fun to imitate others or appear to be a hundred other people on a look out for a partner. make sure you stand out. So get a fresh perspective on yourself from friends and relations and keep a mental note of the compliments you receive. Don t get overly resourceful or use confusing language. keep it uncomplicated, Yet significant. You wouldn't like to sound boring either. While it can be vital you are clear in your communication about yourself, On your collection, It is important to maintain some mystery so as to entice prospective partners to want to get to know more about you!Finding Love on Free On Line Dating SitesA Woman s ts of Online DatingDating BreakupsFree internet dating Service for Single ParentsOnline Dating Give Users What They WantThe best tips for flirting on a dateHow to Find Love on the InternetThe mentality of women in KazakhstanDare To Follow Emo FlairFinding Mr or Mrs Right Through Arab Dating Websites!Free Online DatingOnline Dating Personal Ads That Get AttentionDatingPersistence On Adult internet dating (But not too much) Pays OffTips on Writing Personal Ads and Emails for On Line DatingSlim Men and BBWThe 6 Biggest Dating Mistakes That Men MakeMake a long lasting meaningful courting through Internet datingEscorts and Their UsesRussian brides and Western bridesCreative Date IdeasThe Art of the Pick Up LineHow to Flirt?Does online dating Really Work?Best Pick Up LinesFree gay dating sites also provide some hope to lonely heartsNot found a suitable date why not try free dating sitesWaiting to meet a special someone? Why stall?Adult Dating Sites Where A Picture Is NOT Worth A Thousand WordsWhy Men want Female Friends.

    June 10, 2021 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Wanita Kick

    I really like looking through an article that will make people think. Also, thank you for permitting me to comment!


    June 10, 2021 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. rv repair shops

    Everything is very open with a clear clarification of the challenges. It was definitely informative. Your website is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!


    June 10, 2021 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Mose Strassburg

    An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been doing a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me lunch because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this topic here on your site.

    June 10, 2021 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Virgil Chenaille

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will return once again since I bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.

    June 10, 2021 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Marlin Swires


    June 11, 2021 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. rv repair near me now

    Wonderful post! We are linking to this particularly great post on our site. Keep up the good writing.


    June 11, 2021 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jamison Backey


    June 11, 2021 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Wilber Blahnik

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there a means you can remove me from that service? Cheers!

    June 11, 2021 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Dominic Wims

    I truly love your site.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím trying to create my very own blog and would like to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Appreciate it!

    June 11, 2021 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. for sale near me


    June 11, 2021 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. travel trailer repair near me

    After looking over a few of the blog posts on your web page, I really appreciate your way of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my website too and let me know your opinion.


    June 11, 2021 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Beds Riverside

    I blog quite often and I truly appreciate your information. Your article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to book mark your blog and keep checking for new information about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.


    June 11, 2021 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Transport Van Repair

    There's certainly a lot to learn about this topic. I like all the points you have made.


    June 11, 2021 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Repair Near Me


    June 11, 2021 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. trailer repair shops near me

    I really like it when individuals come together and share opinions. Great website, continue the good work!


    June 11, 2021 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. truck and trailer repair shops near me


    June 12, 2021 at 06:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Technician Near Me

    I needed to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you book-marked to check out new things you postÖ


    June 12, 2021 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. City Bus Repair Shop Near Me


    June 12, 2021 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Sprinter Van Side Repair


    June 12, 2021 at 07:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Body Repair San Diego

    I want to to thank you for this good read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you postÖ


    June 12, 2021 at 07:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. buy morphine online

    Buy Morphine Online, is a remedy used to treat moderate to severe
    pain. short-acting formulations are taken as wanted for
    pain. The prolonged-launch shape of this medicinal drug is for
    round-the-clock remedy of ache. Order morphine on line with out
    prescription to treat your pains from Premuimchem.
    Thousand of people suffer from pain everyday because of
    one purpose or the other and few can definitely get a prescription to get these

    Contact Us
    Phone: +1 201-614-4459
    Email: info@americanpharmacycure.com

    June 12, 2021 at 07:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. tool rental near me

    Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to create a really good articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I put things off a lot and don't manage to get anything done.


    June 12, 2021 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. same day covid testing near me


    June 12, 2021 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. outlet mall near me

    Hi there! I could have sworn Iíve visited this blog before but after going through some of the articles I realized itís new to me. Anyways, Iím certainly happy I stumbled upon it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back often!


    June 12, 2021 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. covid rapid testing near me

    This web site really has all the information I needed concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 12, 2021 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. white castle near me


    June 12, 2021 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. italian food near me


    June 12, 2021 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. places to eat near me


    June 13, 2021 at 04:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Best appliance repair service

    I'm really enjoying the design and layout of your blog.

    It's a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more
    enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?
    Exceptional work!

    June 13, 2021 at 05:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. hiking near me

    A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that you need to write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally folks don't discuss such topics. To the next! Best wishes!!


    June 13, 2021 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. smog check near me

    Hello there, I believe your site may be having internet browser compatibility problems. When I look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in I.E., it's got some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Besides that, great website!


    June 13, 2021 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. credit unions near me

    I blog often and I genuinely appreciate your content. This article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new information about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.


    June 13, 2021 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Leave a Reply to Sprinter Van Body


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.