Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine” as Want to Read:
An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  588 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
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 wor ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published July 19th 2011 by Pantheon (first published 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about An Anatomy of Addiction, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about An Anatomy of Addiction

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,806)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sep 12, 2011 Molly rated it really liked it
I don't think I'll ever unlearn the terrible things done to Freud's (and his patient's) nose in this book.
I was first introduced to Sigmund Freud as a teenager, and, as most of his theories seemed to revolve around sex and inhibition (joyfully celebrated in song by Melanie Safka), I wholeheartedly embraced his ideas. It was some years later that someone commented to me, "Well, you know he got half of Vienna hooked on cocaine, right?" Well, no, I didn't, and after reading this book I'm still not convinced that's an accurate assessment.

This book explores the history of cocaine as a medicinal aid throu
Nov 05, 2011 K rated it really liked it
Recommended to K by: M
I love good non-fiction reads -- the ones that engage you and also make you feel intelligent for reading them. This book, the story of two highly accomplished individuals' struggles with cocaine, falls squarely into that category.

Freud was a cocaine addict? Who knew? What does this do to any credibility his ideas have at this point? Okay, I'm exaggerating. According to this book, Freud ended his battle with cocaine prior to writing "The Interpretation of Dreams." Although apparently, I'm not the
Dec 15, 2011 Jordan rated it it was amazing
Have you ever thought that you could give up eating ice cream by smoking crack? What about giving up morphine and taking up the habit of snorting cocaine? What about developing a hierarchy of doctors who can do your job while you get high on coke and morphine? Well what seems obvious today was discovered though experimentation by the medical intelligentsia who encountered different miracle drugs in the past.

Less than 100 years ago Sigmund Freud obsessively experimented with cocaine. He even mi
Andrew Georgiadis
May 03, 2012 Andrew Georgiadis rated it really liked it
The depths of the mind

" tempting as it is to singularly ascribe all of Sigmund's revolutionary ideas to his cocaine use, this tack ultimately constitutes as simplistic and unsatisfying explanation. The "Interpretation of Dreams" covers a skein of thoughts and ideas beyond those set in motion by the Irma episode. Freud's psychological constitution was marked by multiple compulsions, perfectionism, risk taking resentments, loneliness, alienation, emotional pain, traumatic family experiences,
Oct 15, 2011 M rated it really liked it
I'm going to go ahead and give this four stars even though by the end I felt, as I often do when reading non fiction, that it got repetitive and draggy by the end.
Anatomy is a well researched and well written if somewhat imaginative biography of cocaine as a drug as well as its impact on some of the finest minds in medicine. Did you know cocaine was used as an anesthetic? Or that many stressed out moms were prescribed morphine? In short it;s a miracle that we all made it here today given what we

Two medical pioneers -- including pioneers in the potential medical use of, and actual personal misuse of, cocaine. Howard Markel paints a cautionary tale of addiction that powerfully resonates a century and more later.

Many people know a bit about Sigmund Freud's history with cocaine, despite the best efforts of generations of Freudian acolytes and disciples to cover up just how much he used (or abused), how long he used it, and how much it affected his general work habits and his psychological
Feb 13, 2013 Jennifer rated it liked it
I enjoyed this way, way more than I thought I would. Dr. Markel is a wonderfully immersive writer, taking us inside the heads of two fascinating physicians and their dizzying spirals into addiction. I love that there's a voice to the narrative; I get a real sense that I'm being told a story by someone who's enraptured by the material he's found and can't wait to share it with us. I like everything about it: the imagined dialogues, the fugues on the history of the coca plant, the scenes at the sa ...more
Dec 16, 2011 Patricia rated it really liked it
I started this with great hesitation, but it was my Book Group choice for January. I found it to be an interesting change from my usual choices. It is a little slow at the start, but becomes absorbing when you realize you are reading about giants of medicine, Freud, Halsted, Osler, and the era when cocaine was considered to be the miracle drug to cure all. The addiction of Freud & Halsted as they used themselves as trial subjects, is a major part of the book.
Not a book for everyone, but writ
Sep 29, 2011 Rosanne rated it really liked it
A highly readable account of the cocaine abuse of Halstead and Freud at a time when the devastating harm cocaine could do to an abuser were not fully known. Towards the end of the book, when Halstead and Freud were no longer abusing drugs, or, in Halstead's case, no longer regularly abusing cocaine, Markel seems to go off on tangents and I found myself wondering what these little asides had to do with these doctors' drug abuse. Overall, though, this was a great read that gave a high-level pictur ...more
Pamela J
Jan 03, 2012 Pamela J rated it it was amazing
Wow. Markel's well-crafted prose imparts knowledge, humor, and a surge of interest in the topic. His knowledge of medical history and its context is impressive. Interesting to think there was a time when cocaine use was not demonized, yet alcohol and opium were. Everyone knows that the original Coca-Cola derived its magic from the eponymous leaves. But before Coke, there was vin Mariani.
Interesting portraits of late 19th century personas who liberally used and became addicted to cocaine: Freud-
Mar 09, 2015 Ed rated it really liked it
An Anatomy of Addiction weaves together, in alternating chapters, the lives of two major contributors to medicine, with a focus on their struggles with the disease of cocaine addiction. The book is a model of writing by a physician/medical historian. Markel, the historian, probes the sources, evaluates other interpretations of the sources and constructs a readable narrative. I especially appreciated his measured assessment of various arguments over the influence of cocaine on Freud's ideas. Mark ...more
Dave Biggus
Oct 01, 2011 Dave Biggus rated it it was amazing
There's so much of this history I've never known about, or just incidentally. Howard Markel is an excellent historical writer, bringing together the beginning of commercial cocaine, and it's subsequent abuse by Freud and William Halsted (responsible for many modern surgical techniques). Fascinating stuff, combined with dozens of pictures (I love history books littered with pics, to put you THERE). It was a page turner from beginning to end. Highly recommended.
Jul 11, 2016 Falbs rated it really liked it
"One of the most maddening features is the malady's stealthy ability to convince the sufferer and his family that nothing, nothing at all, is askew or dangerous about something that most decidedly is. Indeed, if you were going to design addiction as a disease, one that conspires within the brain for long periods before eventually killing that person off and proceeding on to the next vulnerable victim, you would be hard-pressed to come up with a more diabolical symptom than denial, the need to le ...more
Nov 12, 2011 Rhonda rated it really liked it
Fascinating, esp for me as a Johns Hopkins staff member, to know more of the "story behind the story" about these famous personages, both doctors. Since cocaine is still a huge problem in the city of Baltimore, it was also interesting to read about its history. This was actually a quick read, and left me wanting to know more about the lives of both Freud and Halsted.
Maryann Jorissen
May 26, 2013 Maryann Jorissen rated it it was ok
There were interesting bits of history throughout the book. However, the general story did not flow well. The story line was hard to follow. Plus the intellect of these two people were so complex, that it would seem difficult to write of their personality on the premise of a single trait. The main take- home message: they succeeded in spite of their addiction.
Nov 28, 2011 Ellen rated it really liked it
I found this book very, very interesting. There was one grammatical error that I spotted but nonetheless, I felt as though I was learning a great deal more about Freud and early medicine than I expected. It is truly an interesting and informative book. It would be a good book for a nonfiction book club selection.
Sep 01, 2011 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Pretty good book about how cocaine addiction affected the lives of two medical pioneers (Freud and Halsted), how cocaine use evolved into abuse, and what medicine/surgery and psychiatry were like at the turn of the 20th century.
Jul 24, 2011 Meg marked it as to-read
Shelves: about-people, history
Found this via NY Times review:
Jul 24, 2011 Amos rated it really liked it
Fascinating read about the fathers of psychoanalysis and modern day surgery and their struggles with the brand new "wonder drug" cocaine. Eye opening in many ways....
Cara Hinton
Jun 26, 2014 Cara Hinton rated it it was amazing
I wish I had read text books like this when I was in school. Very enjoyable and educational. It's very unfortunate what the FDA has become, but after reading this you realize how much experimenting was done in the late 1800's and early 1900's with medicine. It is to our benefit that controlled studies occur with new drugs, however, it too is in need of reform. I think there was a lot of PRAYER going on in hospitals back then!

Great book about two amazing men and their addictions, and frankly how
Aug 27, 2011 Joanne rated it it was amazing
This is not only an excellent book for understanding the disease of addiction but a great piece of history well researched.
Nov 27, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
A little repetitive in the opening chapters, but the look at two influential minds struggling with addiction is worth it.
Sally Anne
Aug 24, 2011 Sally Anne rated it liked it
The beginning is a little rough, writing-wise, but it smoothes out. A lively, interesting read, if not terribly deep.
Elementary Particle
Oct 02, 2011 Elementary Particle rated it liked it
It was a good book albeit due to the lack of documents many aspects are just suppositions from my point of view.
Nov 09, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Who would have known? . . . Sigmund a coke addict. . . just saying . . . Fascinating read.
Oct 03, 2011 Stacia rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating book--well written, well researched.
Mar 30, 2014 Ninja rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at the effects of drug addiction in a time when the ravages of the narcotic cocaine were poorly understood. It made me realize addiction is a difficult and destructive illness that we still try to combat today in the best way we can. I had not realized that Sigmund Freud was afflicted for many years by cocaine addiction. I knew little of the genius of the surgeon William Halsted and was fascinated by his descent into addiction and the measures taken by his benefactors to keep ...more
Very interesting read.
Daniel Cox
Sep 30, 2013 Daniel Cox rated it really liked it
This is an interesting and very well written book which chronicles the cocaine addiction of two of the most prominent medical minds of the late 19th, early 20th century, Sigmund Freud and William Halsted. The latter may not be a familiar name, but he was one of the four founding physicians of the new Johns Hopkins medical school and was perhaps the most famous surgeon of his time. The author discusses at great length the details of their addiction and the role that it might have played in the de ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 60 61 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted
  • Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs
  • Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America
  • Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris
  • The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It
  • Ugly Beauty: Helena Rubinstein, L'Oreal, and the Blemished History of Looking Good
  • Growing Up in Coal Country
  • Opium: A History
  • Crazy: Notes On and Off the Couch
  • The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army
  • Remembering Satan
  • The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness
  • Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them
  • Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's
  • Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography
  • Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection
  • Almost a Psychopath: Do I (or Does Someone I Know) Have a Problem with Manipulation and Lack of Empathy?
  • Brains: How They Seem to Work
Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., is the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine, professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases, professor of psychiatry, and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. His books include the award- winning Quarantine! and When Germs Travel. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The New Engla ...more
More about Howard Markel...

Share This Book

“Such elusive puzzles recall the historian's basic dilemma: the absence of evidence does not always signify evidence of absence. In the end, we will likely never know.” 7 likes
More quotes…