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Radó, S. (1931). The Psychical Effects of Intoxication: Attempt At a Psycho-Analytical Theory of Drug Addiction. Psychoanal. Rev., 18(1):69-84.

(1931). Psychoanalytic Review, 18(1):69-84

The Psychical Effects of Intoxication: Attempt At a Psycho-Analytical Theory of Drug Addiction

Sándor Radó

Intoxicants are substances of the most varied origin and of a chemical character (alkaloids, substances of the alcohol group, etc.) which, if absorbed occasionally or habitually, produce effects of a narcotic, stimulating and intoxicating nature in mental life. Pharmacology has more or less thoroughly investigated the influence of these substances on our somatic and psychical organic functions, so that we know their specific effects according to the use made of them and the amount of the dose. This information, however, holds good only as an average (statistical) computation; it cannot be said with certainty beforehand how a particular person in a particular case will react to the absorption of a poisonous substance. Pharmacology takes this state of affairs into account by assuming a ‘constitutional factor’; according to Lewin each individual has his own ‘toxic equation,’ the composition of which, however, is completely unknown, nor does it admit of further investigation by the pharmacologist.

Daily experience shows us how great is this uncertainty just in the matter of the specific effects of intoxicants. Many people are reduced to a state of intoxication by quite a small amount of alcohol; others will drink a lot and actually succumb to the physical effects of intoxication, and yet remain sober. Indeed the behavior of one and the same person can in the course of time alter fundamentally in this respect without our knowing why. One observes similar phenomena when administering morphine and other narcotic medicines. It is the view of psychiatrists that this unknown factor—the individual predisposition or tendency to intoxication—plays the decisive part in the etiology of drug-taking and kindred states.

Let us try to penetrate this obscure territory from the point of view of psychoanalysis.

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