Freuds Involvement With Cocaine English Literature Essay

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Sigmund Freud was a neurologist, who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Based on his theories around human development, unconscious systems of ideas, and neuroses, he is commonly referred to as the "father of psychoanalysis". My research paper revolves around Freud and his involvement with cocaine. I will be researching Freud's use of the drug, the people he influenced to use the drug, the benefits of his research and what inevitably occurred due to his studies on the use of cocaine.

I feel Freud's view that good would come from cocaine use is ridiculous. Today cocaine is considered a high addictive drug responsible for the collapse of families and communities. I understand however, during Freud's time, there was very little information available regarding the short and long term effects of cocaine use.

Sigmund Freud was born Sigismund Schlomo Freud in 1856 to Jewish parents in Freiberg (Príbor), Moravia, part of the Austrian Empire, now known as the Czech Republic. Freud was the eldest of three brothers and five sisters from his father's second marriage. He lived in Freiberg until his father's business failed. When he was four years old, Freud's father moved his family to Vienna. Although Freud came from a poor family living in a small apartment, his parents worked hard and gave up much to provide a quality education for him. He was often treated more favourably by his parents than his brothers and sisters. <>.

From an early age, Freud showed signs of brilliance and academic excellence. Throughout his schooling, his intelligence was noted and he was ranked first in his class six of the eight years he attended, receiving honours on the Matura or leaving examinations. At the age of seventeen years, he attended the University of Vienna (1873-1881) with a view of studying law, but changed his mind and entered the medical school. <>.

There is little known about Freud's early years, as he apparently destroyed his personal papers in 1885 and again in 1907. After 1907, his papers were closely guarded and only available to Ernest Jones, his biographer. <>.

Following his schooling, Freud started his medical practice specializing in nervous and brain disorders. Within his most neurotic and hysterical patients, he experimented with hypnotism. Although Freud was intent on helping his patients, he too suffered numerous psychosomatic disorders, including an exaggerated fear of dying. At this time, he was also practicing self-analysis and was involved in exploring his own dreams and memories, as well as the dynamics surrounding the development of his own personality. <>.

In 1884, Freud read an article written by Theodor Aschen-Brant, a German physician on the effect of coca leaves used on Bavarian soldiers. The article detailed how the use of the coca leaves seemed to suppress hunger, increase mental powers and helped to endure strain. Reading this article was the start of Freud's studies of the use and power of cocaine. <,9171,912600,00.html>.

Freud purchased his first gram of cocaine at a cost of one tenth of his monthly salary. At this time, he started to use the drug on himself in small doses. He also started to send small amounts of the drug to his friends and his fiancée, Martha Berneys, whom he desperately wanted to marry. At the time of meeting Martha, Freud was still living with his parents and virtually penniless. He had little to offer and Martha's wealthy family was skeptical of the kind of life this young man could provide for their daughter. Freud was hopeful his studies on the therapeutic uses of cocaine would bring him the notoriety and income required to support a wife. <>.

Based on his studies and personal use of cocaine, Freud wrote several papers detailing the effects of cocaine as an antidepressant. He felt the use of cocaine would be beneficial for many ailments and disorders and wrote a paper called Uber Coca, detailing these disorders. Some of the situations and ailments where he felt cocaine would be useful were mental stimulation, possible treatment for digestive disorders, appetite stimulant, treatment for addictions such as alcohol and morphine, as an asthma treatment, an aphrodisiac and an anesthetic. At the time, he released his paper, Uber Coca, it is important to note that drug companies, Merck and Parke Davis, who had been instrumental in providing the cocaine to Theodore Ashen-Brandt, were paying Freud to endorse their competing coca products at the same time. <>.

As a result of his findings, Freud prescribed the drug to his friends and family for various ailments. Freud and his friend Karl Koller, an eye physician, also started to conduct experiments on themselves using the drug. Koller specifically noted the numbing effect on his lips when he drank cocaine and conducted experiments on his eye surgery patients. He found by adding drops of cocaine in his patient's eyes before surgery the involuntary eye reflex would cease and pupil dilation would occur, making the surgical process much easier. Although Freud was aware of the use of cocaine as an anesthetic, he did not write extensively about this use. Freud, who had been away, returned to Vienna to find the success and acceptance he had been seeking had been taken by his colleague. While Freud was away, Koller had presented a report to the medical society in Vienna on the use of cocaine for eye surgeries. Koller was receiving accolades from the medical community and as a result the discovery of cocaine as an anesthetic was attributed to Koller. Freud was upset at having missed the opportunity to present the findings to the medical community. He was equally upset by Koller's success, as it was found using cocaine for eye surgery was one of the only safe uses for the drug. <>.

Based on Koller's report, the personal use of cocaine in the medical and scientific communities escalated. It is believed by the late 1800s more than fifty percent of those in the scientific and medical communities were regular cocaine users with many suffering cocaine addictions. As word of the anesthetic benefits of cocaine spread, the drug started to be included in a number of products, such as lozenges, elixirs, pills and even a European wine called Vin Mariani after the creator Angelo Mariani. <http://www.historyhouse/in_history/cocaine>.

Although the use of cocaine was first thought to be a medical benefit, things started to go terribly wrong when Freud commenced experimenting with cocaine and Wilhelm Fleiss. Wilhelm Fleiss was an ear, nose and mouth specialist, who agreed with Freud's findings that cocaine had enduring anesthetic qualities. It was Fleiss' belief the centre of illness physically and psychologically was the nose. Freud also agreed with Fleiss' view of the centre of illness and the two embarked extensive personal experimentation with cocaine. Freud and Fleiss used cocaine in many different ways including painting it on their bodies. Fleiss recommended the use of cocaine as anesthesia for the treatment of nasal reflex neurosis. Fleiss conducted operations on Freud and a number of other patients diagnosed with nasal reflex neurosis and other syndromes, such as hysteria using cocaine as the anesthesia. While most of the surgeries were successful without any lingering problems, some such as Emma Eckstein's surgery were disastrous. Freud had diagnosed Emma as suffering from hysteria. At Freud's request, Fleiss consulted with the patient and determined surgery was required. As a result of the surgery, Eckstein almost died and was permanently disfigured when it was discovered gauze had been left in the nasal cavity for more than a month. Due to Fleiss' negligence, it was widely felt he was not only using cocaine on his patients during surgery, but he too was under the influence during the procedures. <>.

Freud was also instrumental in prescribing cocaine for Dr. Ernst Fleishl von Markow, his friend who was suffering a morphine addiction as a result of pain caused by an infection to his thumb. Freud provided regular does of cocaine for Fleischl von Markow. At first this treatment appeared to be beneficial, as his morphine dependence seemed to dissipate. However, over time, as Fleischl von Markow continued to use the cocaine, he became addicted to the drug, using a gram of pure cocaine each day. As a result, his addiction took a toll on him mentally and physically. He became increasingly paranoid, suffering hallucinations, and convulsions, resulting in cocaine psychosis. In order to alleviate his cocaine addiction symptoms, he stated to use a morphine and cocaine combination in order to function daily. Fleischl von Markow subsequently died a slow, painful death due to his addiction a few years after starting the treatment. <>.

On the heels of Fleischl von Markow's death, Freud's reputation was starting to take a beating as reports of addiction overdose and death due to cocaine use, became known. Although cocaine at this time was not an illegal drug, people started to doubt its effect and Freud's research on its medical benefit. Some authorities including Erlenmeyer started to publish information on the addictive qualities of cocaine. In 1887, Freud ceased publishing documentation on the beneficial effects of cocaine. He also discontinued the use of cocaine in his professional practice, although he continued to use small doses of the drug personally until he ceased using it altogether in 1904.

Freud was never addicted to the drug himself. Some feel his lack of addiction despite his continued use was due to the fact he did not have an addictive personality. <>.


In Freud's studies it is easy to see how at first he thought cocaine was a drug with wonderous healing properties. He had no way of knowing all of the addictive aspects of cocaine without indepth, long term study of the drug in various situations. If Freud had studied the effects of the drug in the long term, rather than jumping in with both feet shortly after his initial reading of Theodor Aschen-Brant's article, he would have realized the addictive properties of the drug. Freud proved his unease with the long term effects of the drug, as he attempted to have all reference to his experimentation on himself and others with cocaine stricken from his biography.

Work Cited

"Medicine: Freud's Cocaine Capers." Time Magazine. 06 January 1975. 28 October 2010.  <,9171,912660,00.html>. 

"Freud, Professor Sigmund (1856-1939)". Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists and Unbelievers. n.d. 14 October 2010.  < sugmundfreud.htm>. 

"Freud and Cocaine: The Deal." History House Magazine. n.d. 28 October 2010.  <>. 

Pearce, David. "A spoonful of sugar". The Hedonistic Imperative. n.d. 14 October 2010.  <>. 

"Freud and the Cocaine Episode". Romanian Association for Psychoanalysis Promotion (AROPA). Updated 19 September 2010. 14 October 2010.  <>. 

Edward M, Brecher. "The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs." Schaffer Library of Drug Policy. 1972. 14 October 2010 <>. 

"Wilhelm Fliess." Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. 08 November 2010. < Fliess>.