Posts Tagged ‘An Anatomy of Addiction’

An Anatomy of Addiction, Howard Markel

August 12th, 2011

It’s no secret that cocaine was the ‘new miracle drug’ of the late 19th century. It was everywhere. In fact, the drug enjoyed a long period of praise from the medical community for its curative properties in relieving pain, indigestion, depression, and was even heralded to cure morphine addiction!

In his new book An Anatomy of Addiction, acclaimed medical historian Howard Markel explores the history of cocaine and addictions by tracing the story of two groundbreaking doctors, Freud and Halstead; their research and ultimate addiction to cocaine. Freud was looking to make a medical breakthrough to elevate his status. Halstead, like most physicians of the time, was initially lured in by the anesthetic properties of cocaine as a safer alternative in conducting his surgeries. Both sought to learn more about the drug, but in using themselves as the subject of experimention, what they ended up with was a spiraling addiction that eventually came to rule every aspect of their lives.

“Howard Markel eloquently tells the parallel stories of these two pathbreaking physicians and how their stories intersect in remarkable and sometimes tragic ways. . . Markel’s extraordinary achievement combines first-rate history of medicine and outstanding cultural history.”— (starred) Publishers Weekly

Everything you wanted to know about the history of cocaine, the father of psychoanalysis, and modern surgery is thoroughly documented in this book. Most importantly, this is a book that raises awareness about our continual battle with, and research with drugs—the dual nature of drugs as health guards and health hazards. The war on drugs is certainly far from being a thing of the past, but its roots certainly have a long history. With so many legal and illegal drugs out there, it’s hard not to question: how do we know which drugs are doing us more harm than good?  Markel invokes this, and many more questions to the forefront in his new book.

“Absorbing and thoroughly documented account . . . a vivid narrative of two of the most remarkable of the many contributors to our understanding of human biology and function. [Markel] has written a tour de force of scientific and social history, one that helps illuminate a unique period in the long story of medical discovery.”—Sherwin Nuland, on the cover of The New York Times Book Review