Strychnine & Gold (Part 1): Volume One Part One of the Untold History of Addiction Treatment in the United States
Kenneth Anderson, author
This book tells the story of the huge addiction treatment industry which flourished in the United States between 1890 and the advent of Prohibition in 1920. The story begins in Russia in 1886, where a number of doctors discovered a relatively effective pharmacological treatment for alcoholism. Although this Russian discovery was published in countless major English language medical journals, it was entirely ignored by the US addiction experts of the day, who eschewed pharmacological treatments, and instead preferred to lock people up in inebriate asylums where they could be subjected to religious coercion. However, an obscure railroad physician and patent medicine salesman named Leslie E. Keeley, who lived in the dusty prairie town of Dwight, Illinois, read about the Russian treatment in a medical journal and decided to give it a try. Much to his surprise, the Russian treatment proved highly effective, and, by 1891, Dr. Keeley was treating upwards of a thousand patents a day at the Keeley Institute in Dwight. Keeley was a salesman and a bit of a Barnum; he always claimed that he had invented the cure himself after decades of painstaking research and he called it the Gold Cure, claiming that his secret ingredient was gold. Of course, there was no gold in the gold cure other than the gold which lined Keeley's pockets. However, the treatment was relatively effective, and by 1893 there were over 100 Keeley Institutes operating in the United States and abroad, and hundreds of copycats were operating imitation gold cure institutes. The Keeley Gold Cure was even adopted by the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers and the US Army. The Keeley treatment took 28 days and required hypodermic injections four times a day for the entire period. On the other hand, the Gatlin Institutes which opened in 1902 and the Neal Institutes which opened in 1909 used a form of aversion treatment and advertised themselves as three-day liquor cures. Competition between the gold cures and the three-day liquor cures in the first two decades of the 20th century was fierce and intense. Then, as the United States entered World War One in 1917, the demand for addiction treatment suddenly dried up for a variety of reasons, and the majority of these proprietary cure institutes had shut down before the enactment of Prohibition in 1920, although the parent Keeley Institute in Dwight remained in operation until 1966. This book contains the never-before-told tale of how these proprietary treatment institutes grew into a huge industry, flourished, then finally faded away as the United States entered World War One.