July 21, 2011
"An Anatomy of Addiction": Sigmund Freud, cokehead
Nicholas Meyer's bestselling 1974 novel, "The Seven Percent Solution," isn't mentioned once in "An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted and the Miracle Drug Cocaine" by Howard Markel, but any of Markel's readers who have also read Meyer's highly entertaining Sherlock Holmes pastiche will think of it often all the same. The novel "reveals" that Holmes' "Great Hiatus" (the three years between his false death at Reichenbach Falls and his reappearance in "The Adventure of the Empty House") was actually a period of recovery from cocaine addiction after his treatment by the great Viennese therapist Sigmund Freud. The founder of psychoanalysis brought exceptional insight to bear in providing this cure; he once abused cocaine himself.
Markel's provocative book is a dual addiction biography of Freud and his contemporary, William Halsted, arguably the greatest surgeon of his time, a founding professor at Johns Hopkins Hospital and deviser of at least a half-dozen revolutionary surgical techniques and procedures still employed today, such as the use of rubber gloves. Both were unquestionably great men, but they also wrestled with dangerous drug habits that imperiled their work. Both sought to conceal or downplay their drug use and, as a result, information on that use and how, if at all, they managed to stop it is pretty sparse on the ground. If Meyer's novel is the story of a doctor investigating the psyche of a great detective, then "An Anatomy of Addiction" is the work of a doctor -- Markel is an M.D. and director for the Center of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan -- who plays detective to understand the secret lives of two medical giants.
Posted by Azra Raza at 07:35 AM | Permalink