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Bernfeld, S. (1953). Freud's Studies on Cocaine, 1884-1887. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 1:581-613.

(1953). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 1:581-613

Freud's Studies on Cocaine, 1884-1887

Siegfried Bernfeld, Ph.D.

To the history of Freud's hospital years (1882-1885) (3) belongs a chapter on his advocation of cocaine, a "side interest, though a deep one" (20pp. 23-25). In his work with cocaine Freud, for the first time, went his own way. His research under Brücke (see 2) and Meynert, as well as his work in clinical neurology, for all the talent revealed, for all the originality of detail, was basically conservative. The goals, concepts, methods, the questions asked, the answers given—all were completely within the teaching of admired and loved masters, who inspired him and pressed their stamp of approval on his efforts. The cocaine studies, on the other hand, were not sponsored by anyone. The drug, though isolated from the coca leaves in the year 1859-1860, was hardly known. Those scientists that were acquainted with it generally considered it worthless and at the same time dangerous. Rumors of its benefits were believed to be based on superstitions of wretched Peruvian Indians, accepted by gullible travelers.

In these studies Freud crosses—although only by a few steps—the narrowly drawn boundaries of the sanctioned research field to which he had previously limited himself. It must be considered as his first attempt to break out into full independence. He followed this in the next years with several stronger efforts; but it was not until the latter part of the 1890's that he was capable of pursuing his way completely alone against the "compact majority."

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