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Letter- Cocaine 1884 – Sigmund Freud

Excerpts from the published Freud papers on cocaine. Freud describes his own early cocaine usage and is an enthusiastic proponent for the drug.

From ‘Über Coca,’ Centralblatt für die ges. Therapie, 2, pp. 289–314, 1884

V. The Effect of Coca on the Healthy Human Body

I have carried out experiments and studied, in myself and others, the effect of coca on the healthy human body; my findings agree fundamentally with Mantegazza’s description of the effect of coca leaves.

The first time I took 0.05cg. of cocaïnum muriaticum in a 1% water solution was when I was feeling slightly out of sorts from fatigue. This solution is rather viscous, somewhat opalescent, and has a strange aromatic smell. At first it has a bitter taste, which yields afterwards to a series of very pleasant aromatic flavors. Dry cocaine salt has the same smell and taste, but to a more concentrated degree.

A few minutes after taking cocaine, one experiences a sudden exhilaration and feeling of lightness. One feels a certain furriness on the lips and palate, followed by a feeling of warmth in the same areas; if one now drinks cold water, it feels warm on the lips and cold in the throat. On other occasions the predominant feeling is a rather pleasant coolness in the mouth and throat.

During this first trial I experienced a short period of toxic effects, which did not recur in subsequent experiments. Breathing became slower and deeper and I felt tired and sleepy; I yawned frequently and felt somewhat dull. After a few minutes the actual cocaine euphoria began, introduced by repeated cooling eructation. Immediately after taking the cocaine I noticed a slight slackening of the pulse and later a moderate increase.

I have observed the same physical signs of the effect of cocaine in others, mostly people of my own age. The most constant symptom proved to be the repeated cooling eructation. This is often accompanied by a rumbling which must originate from high up in the intestine; two of the people I observed, who said they were able to recognize movements of their stomachs, declared emphatically that they had repeatedly detected such movements. Often, at the outset of the cocaine effect, the subjects alleged that they experienced an intense feeling of heat in the head. I noticed this in myself as well in the course of some later experiments, but on other occasions it was absent. In only two cases did coca give rise to dizziness. On the whole the toxic effects of coca are of short duration, and much less intense than those produced by effective doses of quinine or salicylate of soda; they seem to become even weaker after repeated use of cocaine.

There are said to be people who cannot tolerate coca at all; on the other hand, I have found not a few who remained unaffected by 5cg, which for me and others is an effective dose.

The psychic effect of cocaïnum muriaticum in doses of 0.05–0.10g consists of exhilaration and lasting euphoria, which does not differ in any way from the normal euphoria of a healthy person. The feeling of excitement which accompanies stimulus by alcohol is completely lacking; the characteristic urge for immediate activity which alcohol produces is also absent. One senses an increase of self-control and feels more vigorous and more capable of work; on the other hand, if one works, one misses that heightening of the mental powers which alcohol, tea, or coffee induce. One is simply normal, and soon finds it difficult to believe that one is under the influence of any drug at all.

I have tested this effect of coca, which wards off hunger, sleep, and fatigue and steels one to intellectual effort, some dozen times on myself; I had no opportunity to engage in physical work.

The effect of a moderate dose of coca fades away so gradually that, in normal circumstances, it is difficult to define its duration. If one works intensively while under the influence of coca, after from three to five hours there is a decline in the feeling of well-being, and a further dose of coca is necessary in order to ward off fatigue. The effect of coca seems to last longer if no heavy muscular work is undertaken. Opinion is unanimous that the euphoria induced by coca is not followed by any feeling of lassitude or other state of depression. I should be inclined to think that after moderate doses (0.05–0.10g) a part at least of the coca effect lasts for over twenty-four hours. In my own case, at any rate, I have noticed that even on the day after taking coca my condition compares favorably with the norm. I should be inclined to explain the possibility of a lasting gain in strength, such as has often been claimed for coca by the totality of such effects.

It seems probable, in the light of reports which I shall refer to later, that coca, if used protractedly but in moderation, is not detrimental to the body. Von Anrep treated animals for thirty days with moderate doses of cocaine and detected no detrimental effects on their bodily functions. It seems to me noteworthy – and I discovered this in myself and in other observers who were capable of judging such things – that a first dose or even repeated doses of coca produce no compulsive desire to use the stimulant further; on the contrary, one feels a certain unmotivated aversion to the substance.

Coca is a far more potent and far less harmful stimulant than alcohol, and its widespread utilization is hindered at present only by its high cost.

Like Mantegazza and Frankl, I have experienced personally how the painful symptoms attendant upon large meals – viz, a feeling of pressure and fullness in the stomach, discomfort and a disinclination to work – disappear with eructation following small doses of cocaine (0.025–0.05). Time and again I have brought such relief to my colleagues; and twice I observed how the nausea resulting from gastronomic excesses responded in a short time to the effects of cocaine, and gave way to a normal desire to eat and a feeling of bodily well-being. I have also learned to spare myself stomach troubles by adding a small amount of cocaine to salicylate of soda.

Accordingly, I should say that the use of coca is definitely indicated in cases of atomic digestive weakness and the so-called nervous stomach disorders; in such cases it is possible to achieve not merely a relief of the symptoms but a lasting improvement.

c) Coca in cachexia. Long-term use of coca is further strongly recommended and allegedly has been tried with success – in all diseases which involve degeneration of the tissues, such as severe anemia, phthisis, long-lasting febrile diseases, etc.; and also during recovery from such diseases.

I once had occasion to observe the case of a man who was subjected to the type of cure involving the sudden withdrawal of morphine, assisted by the use of coca; the same patient had suffered severe symptoms as a result of abstinence in the course of a previous cure. This time his condition was tolerable; in particular, there was no sign of depression or nausea as long as the effects of coca lasted; chills and diarrhea were now the only permanent symptoms of his abstinence. The patient was not bedridden, and could function normally. During the first days of the cure he consumed 3dg of cocaïnum muriaticum daily, and after ten days he was able to dispense with the coca treatment altogether.

The treatment of morphine addiction with coca does not, therefore, result merely in the exchange of one kind of addiction for another – it does not turn the morphine addict into a coquero; the use of coca is only temporary. Moreover, I do not think that it is the general toughening effect of coca which enables the system weakened by morphine to withstand, at the cost of only insignificant symptoms, the withdrawal of morphine. I am rather inclined to assume that coca has a directly antagonistic effect on morphine…

f) Coca as an aphrodisiac. The natives of South America, who represented their goddess of love with coca leaves in her hand, did not doubt the stimulative effect of coca on the genitalia. Mantegazza confirms that the coqueros sustain a high degree of potency right into old age; he even reports cases of the restoration of potency and the disappearance of functional weaknesses following the use of coca, although he does not believe that coca would produce such an effect in all individuals. Marvaud emphatically supports the view that coca has a stimulative effect; other writers strongly recommend coca as a remedy for occasional functional weaknesses and temporary exhaustion; and Bentley reports on a case of this type in which coca was responsible for the cure.

Among the persons to whom I have given coca, three reported violent sexual excitement which they unhesitatingly attributed to the coca. A young writer, who was enabled by treatment with coca to resume his work after a longish illness, gave up using the drug because of the undesirable secondary effects which it had on him.

 

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Sigmund Freud’s Theory on Dreams

Freud was possibly the first Psychologist to suggest why we dream. He was mainly concerned with a research technique known as psychoanalysis, whereby he would listen to patients talk about experiences and then use them to diagnose and treat mental illness. Think of your stereotypical “film” Psychologist, with his patient lying on the couch. That is Freud’s art. He found that patients commonly reported dreams during sessions, and hence decided to use them as a scientific method to evaluate the mind. He began fully researching dreams towards the end of the 19th century, and concluded they were the key to understanding the subconscious – an important concept in his psychodynamic approach.
Freud believed that we sleep because we are tired of receiving and responding to external stimuli in the environment. This essentially means sleeping is a withdrawal from reality; we go to a dark room and cover ourselves with a duvet to minimise environmental stimuli. It would not be safe to completely withdraw from reality, however. We would risk going to sleep never to wake again, as we would never know when to. We need to have some level of alert during our sleep for emergencies; if a tiger was to start recklessly chewing your arm, you would definitely hope your body would wake (although knowing the nature of dreams, you’d probably wake to find your harmless puppy playfully nibbling your hand). We are very responsive to external stimuli – we just do not usually wake up because of them. That is why we dream of things that are actually happening (although usually exaggerated), as with the puppy/tiger example given above.
So what about dreams themselves? Freud believed the mind was categorised into three areas:
Superego: This is concerned with good morals, and works to counter primal instincts and urges. It strives to be socially acceptable, appropriate and well mannered. Consider this your “shoulder angel”, which works directly against the id. It’s your good conscience.
Ego: This is the conscious mind. It works according to the reality principle; it seeks to please the id without causing trouble or long term grief. It’s the balance between id and superego, and is responsible for other psychodynamic features like defence mechanisms.
Id: The id acts according to the pleasure principle and simply wants everything now. It is concerned with basic drives and instincts. Food, water, sex and other basic impulses are controlled by the id. It seeks only pleasure without pain, and is essentially your “shoulder devil”.
So what does this have to do with dreams? Well Freud believes that during the day, your superego often manages to control the ego; you act in a socially appropriate manner and behave as you should (most of the time anyway…) Essentially, the superego manages to suppress the id. When you sleep, your id needs a way to release all the socially unacceptable desires and urges – et voilà – dreams. Or not. It doesn’t quite end there. Sometimes, our primal urges can be disturbing and may cause psychological harm. So, the brain “censors” these urges and transcribes them to symbolic forms, which are more acceptable. This is why dreams are often “interpreted”. However, that is not the end of all of Freud’s ideas; he also believed that dreams themselves were split into two parts:
The manifest content: This is what, upon awakening, you would recall. If you were to describe a dream to a friend, it would be the manifest content you would tell them. It is basically the transcription (or censored version) of the true meaning of your dream. It has absolutely no meaning whatsoever, as it is only a way to disguise your underlying forbidden desires.
The latent content: This is what your dream really means. The unconscious desires are included here, and may actually make appearances in the manifest content. However, if they were to do so, they would be unrecognisable and have no context – meaning you’ll forget them much more easily.
The process by which the brain censors dreams, or put more technically, converts manifest content to latent content, is also explained by Freud. He calls the process “dream work”. He believed the brain has three methods to convert the content:
Condensation: As the name suggests, two or more latent thoughts are condensed into one manifest dream or image.
Displacement: This is where desires or emotions are displaced from the intended person/object onto a meaningless object in a manifest dream. So if you have an unconscious love for a person, it may be displaced onto an object, like a new car, in the manifest dream.
Symbolism: Where symbols are used to disguise similar sounding or looking concepts or objects. So for example, Freud believed anything resembling an erection symbolised it (tree trunks, sticks, rockets, lamps – practically anything long). Anything which had ‘space’ inside often represented a vagina (wardrobes, chests, ovens, vases, pots, pans, fireplaces… you get the idea). In fact, something as innocent as walking up the stairs could be interpreted in a sexual manner.
For those familiar with Freud, you will already know that Freud had a small… okay, massive obsession with sex. Most of his theories incorporate genitals and sex, with one theory managing to describe (in essence) incestial fantasies (follow this link for further information). So his idea of dream interpretation often included way too much sex. It is true that the human mind naturally thinks about sex a lot, but to presume most of our dreams are sex related is just unrealistic. I will now present some of the most common dreams, and modern interpretations of what they may indicate, rather than Freud’s idea that hugging a tree means you hold penises close to your heart (literally or metaphorically, we just won’t go there…)

Kaka Padilha

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Sigmund Freud's Theory on Dreams

Freud was possibly the first Psychologist to suggest why we dream. He was mainly concerned with a research technique known as psychoanalysis, whereby he would listen to patients talk about experiences and then use them to diagnose and treat mental illness. Think of your stereotypical “film” Psychologist, with his patient lying on the couch. That is Freud’s art. He found that patients commonly reported dreams during sessions, and hence decided to use them as a scientific method to evaluate the mind. He began fully researching dreams towards the end of the 19th century, and concluded they were the key to understanding the subconscious – an important concept in his psychodynamic approach.
Freud believed that we sleep because we are tired of receiving and responding to external stimuli in the environment. This essentially means sleeping is a withdrawal from reality; we go to a dark room and cover ourselves with a duvet to minimise environmental stimuli. It would not be safe to completely withdraw from reality, however. We would risk going to sleep never to wake again, as we would never know when to. We need to have some level of alert during our sleep for emergencies; if a tiger was to start recklessly chewing your arm, you would definitely hope your body would wake (although knowing the nature of dreams, you’d probably wake to find your harmless puppy playfully nibbling your hand). We are very responsive to external stimuli – we just do not usually wake up because of them. That is why we dream of things that are actually happening (although usually exaggerated), as with the puppy/tiger example given above.
So what about dreams themselves? Freud believed the mind was categorised into three areas:
Superego: This is concerned with good morals, and works to counter primal instincts and urges. It strives to be socially acceptable, appropriate and well mannered. Consider this your “shoulder angel”, which works directly against the id. It’s your good conscience.
Ego: This is the conscious mind. It works according to the reality principle; it seeks to please the id without causing trouble or long term grief. It’s the balance between id and superego, and is responsible for other psychodynamic features like defence mechanisms.
Id: The id acts according to the pleasure principle and simply wants everything now. It is concerned with basic drives and instincts. Food, water, sex and other basic impulses are controlled by the id. It seeks only pleasure without pain, and is essentially your “shoulder devil”.
So what does this have to do with dreams? Well Freud believes that during the day, your superego often manages to control the ego; you act in a socially appropriate manner and behave as you should (most of the time anyway…) Essentially, the superego manages to suppress the id. When you sleep, your id needs a way to release all the socially unacceptable desires and urges – et voilà – dreams. Or not. It doesn’t quite end there. Sometimes, our primal urges can be disturbing and may cause psychological harm. So, the brain “censors” these urges and transcribes them to symbolic forms, which are more acceptable. This is why dreams are often “interpreted”. However, that is not the end of all of Freud’s ideas; he also believed that dreams themselves were split into two parts:
The manifest content: This is what, upon awakening, you would recall. If you were to describe a dream to a friend, it would be the manifest content you would tell them. It is basically the transcription (or censored version) of the true meaning of your dream. It has absolutely no meaning whatsoever, as it is only a way to disguise your underlying forbidden desires.
The latent content: This is what your dream really means. The unconscious desires are included here, and may actually make appearances in the manifest content. However, if they were to do so, they would be unrecognisable and have no context – meaning you’ll forget them much more easily.
The process by which the brain censors dreams, or put more technically, converts manifest content to latent content, is also explained by Freud. He calls the process “dream work”. He believed the brain has three methods to convert the content:
Condensation: As the name suggests, two or more latent thoughts are condensed into one manifest dream or image.
Displacement: This is where desires or emotions are displaced from the intended person/object onto a meaningless object in a manifest dream. So if you have an unconscious love for a person, it may be displaced onto an object, like a new car, in the manifest dream.
Symbolism: Where symbols are used to disguise similar sounding or looking concepts or objects. So for example, Freud believed anything resembling an erection symbolised it (tree trunks, sticks, rockets, lamps – practically anything long). Anything which had ‘space’ inside often represented a vagina (wardrobes, chests, ovens, vases, pots, pans, fireplaces… you get the idea). In fact, something as innocent as walking up the stairs could be interpreted in a sexual manner.
For those familiar with Freud, you will already know that Freud had a small… okay, massive obsession with sex. Most of his theories incorporate genitals and sex, with one theory managing to describe (in essence) incestial fantasies (follow this link for further information). So his idea of dream interpretation often included way too much sex. It is true that the human mind naturally thinks about sex a lot, but to presume most of our dreams are sex related is just unrealistic. I will now present some of the most common dreams, and modern interpretations of what they may indicate, rather than Freud’s idea that hugging a tree means you hold penises close to your heart (literally or metaphorically, we just won’t go there…)

Kaka Padilha