By Simon Peter Howell
The story of the western world’s addiction to cocaine begins with a cut. Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow, a prominent scientist and close friend of Sigmund Freud, was dissecting a cadaver when he cut his thumb with the surgical knife. The wound became infected, and von Fleischl-Marxow had to have the digit amputated. Unfortunately the amputation did not remove the infection, and a neuromata soon formed. The wound became extremely painful, so much so that von Fleischl-Marxow considered suicide. Unable to continue his decorated career in the burgeoning field of medical science, he also fell into a deep depression. As was the prescribed remedy of the time, von Fleischl-Marxow began to use morphine in order to ease the pain; however he soon became addicted to the drug.