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

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  767 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Acclaimed medical historian Howard Markel traces the careers of two brilliant young doctors--Sigmund Freud, neurologist, and William Halsted, surgeon--showing how their powerful addictions to cocaine shaped their enormous contributions to psychology and medicine.
When Freud and Halsted began their experiments with cocaine in the 1880s, neither they, nor their colleagues, h
Paperback, 314 pages
Published July 3rd 2012 by Vintage (first published 2011)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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Oct 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I'll ever unlearn the terrible things done to Freud's (and his patient's) nose in this book. ...more
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Anatomy of an Addiction about Cocaine, Sigmund Freud and William Halsted by Howard Markel, a physician with extensive experience in treating addictions, is a well-written and well-researched book that moves fluidly from history to science and back again.

Freud, we know. Or think we know. This account provides insight into his life far beyond his troubles with cocaine. The picture painted here is of a very competitive and yet insecure, strong and yet needy individual, who spent many years abusi
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
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ardon Pillay
Aug 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine
I was really excited by the premise, given how the 2 key figures became known as the fathers of psychoanalysis and general surgery respectively.

Unfortunately, the book isn't very well organised, and the writing style makes it monotonous to read despite the interesting subject matter. However, the sheer horrors of this "wonder drug," as it was heralded as at the time, come through very clearly.
Maryann Jorissen
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.
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hate Freud so much and usually refuse to read anything about him, but this book piqued my interest and even had me feeling vaguely sympathetic for him. It helped that only one chapter really covered his psychoanalytic techniques or Interpretation of Dreams.

Written in a compelling, easy-to-read style with alternating chapters on Freud and Halstead. It was a quick and interesting read with lots of cool pictures (and several unnecessary and gratuitous ones). The author shares many primary source

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
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 written
Pamela J
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-
Dave Biggus
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Oct 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Nov 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.... ...more
Jul 24, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: about-people, history
Found this via NY Times review: ...more
Sally Anne
The beginning is a little rough, writing-wise, but it smoothes out. A lively, interesting read, if not terribly deep.
Aug 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not only an excellent book for understanding the disease of addiction but a great piece of history well researched.
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating book--well written, well researched.
Elementary Particle
It was a good book albeit due to the lack of documents many aspects are just suppositions from my point of view.
Oct 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who would have known? . . . Sigmund a coke addict. . . just saying . . . Fascinating read.
A little repetitive in the opening chapters, but the look at two influential minds struggling with addiction is worth it.
Samantha Stambaugh
Very interesting read.
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seeing the devastation caused by the drug cocaine, which has led to the enslavement and death of so many, it is hard to think that its virtues as a miracle drug were once extolled by the medical profession. However, such is the case, as the renowned medical historian, Dr. Howard Markel, reveals in An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine, which tells of how both the innovative New York surgeon William Halsted and the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund ...more
It was supposed to be the wonder drug at the start of the age of wonder drugs. Pain reliever. Anesthetic for delicate surgical operations, particularly in ophthalmology. Mood enhancer. Anti-depressant. Tonic for tired people (like medical interns) with too much to do and remember, but little time to do it in and still eat and sleep. Curative agent for morphine and opium addiction. Cocaine! Better than Bayer Aspirin! No need for patent medicine nostrums! The Coca in Coca Cola!

But oh! How addictiv
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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

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