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MORPHINE-ADDICTED DOCTORS, THE ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER, AND EMBATTLED MEDICAL AUTHORITY

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2005

Barry Milligan
Affiliation:
Wright State University

Extract

IN 1883, the American physician J. B. Mattison made the startling announcement that the majority of American morphine habitues were doctors and suggested that between thirty and forty percent of medical professionals were addicted (23). By 1909, an English addiction specialist had broadened the context and seemingly raised the ante, claiming “that the proportion of medical addicts to the total of cases is in some statistics as high as ninety per cent., and that one-fifth of the mortality in the profession is said to be caused by morphinism” (Jennings, The Morphia Habit v). Looking back in 1924, the German psychopharmacologist Louis Lewin referred to a “statistical table of [morphine] addicts, including all countries of the world,” which “gave 40.4 per cent doctors, 10.0 per cent doctors' wives” (54). Of course, all these data are somewhat questionable since reliable measures would have been all but impossible to obtain and the proportions surely varied over the periods and areas in question. But we can reasonably deduce at least this much: medical professionals were consistently the most prominent demographic group among morphine addicts in the developed western world after the middle of the nineteenth century.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2005 Cambridge University Press

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MORPHINE-ADDICTED DOCTORS, THE ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER, AND EMBATTLED MEDICAL AUTHORITY
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