Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. Although health care providers can use it for valid medical purposes, such as local anesthesia for some surgeries, recreational cocaine use is illegal. But do you know which famous neurologist was a cocaine addict?
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, was a cocaine addict who even prescribed the drug to his wife and friends.
Sigmund Freud’s Love for Cocaine
In the 1880s, Freud became interested in a little-known, legal drug used to rejuvenate exhausted troops by a German military doctor, cocaine. Freud experimented with the drug and discovered that drinking water with dissolved cocaine improved his digestion and spirits.
In an 1884 paper titled On Coca, Freud touted the drug’s therapeutic benefits, calling it a song of praise for this magical substance. However, when Freud gave cocaine to his close friend Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow to wean him from his morphine addiction and relieve chronic pain, his friend developed a cocaine addiction. Freud stopped advocating cocaine’s medical benefits as news of other habits, and overdose deaths spread. Still, he continued to use the drug intermittently for migraines, nasal inflammation, and depression until the mid-1890s. (Source: Vice)
Chain Smoking Linked to Chained Surgeries
After smoking his first cigarette in his twenties, Freud became addicted to tobacco. His daily constitutionals always included stops at a local tobacco store, and once he graduated to cigars, he frequently smoked more than 20 of them daily.
Despite the doctor’s warnings about his chain smoking, Freud believed it increased his productivity and creativity. Doctors removed a large portion of Freud’s jaw after discovering a cancerous tumor inside his mouth in 1923. After 33 more surgeries over the next 16 years and having a large prosthesis inserted to separate his sinus and jaw, Freud never stopped smoking. (Source: Vice)
The Smoking and the Love for Cocaine Never Stopped
The book Freud: Living and Dying reviewed his patient’s battle with oral cancer, in which Freud’s physician detailed his patient’s battle with oral cancer. There was also a review of current and previous evidence and epidemiological data on oral cancer and cocaine-induced midline destructive lesions.
Tobacco and cocaine are both responsible for oral lesions, and Freud was a cigar smoker and a cocaine user and defender. According to Freud’s medical records, excessive smoking was the leading cause of his oral disease. However, the oral cancer diagnosis does not appear entirely consistent with Freud’s 16-year survival. According to his physician, Freud used cocaine regularly in the 1890s, and it is possible that he continued to use it after that time without informing his doctor.
It is possible that the lesion that gradually eroded Freud’s splanchnocranial structures was not a true cancerous malignancy but rather the necrotizing effect of cocaine use, which has previously been linked to some massive facial destructive lesions.
Freud’s affair with Cocaine abruptly ended the day after his father’s funeral in 1896. It isn’t easy to believe he could have dismissed this as a mere coincidence. Still, it makes you wonder how European intellectual history might have turned out if Freud had road-tested other now-banned recreational drugs heroically. (Source: Vice)
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