Dr. William Halstead: The Cokehead Who Fathered Modern Medicine

By Karen Harris
Painkilling drugs that relieves general pains such as headaches, now take the place of cocaine. Source: (Photo by Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

By now, you have probably heard many stories of how cocaine was used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was used in quack medicines, cocktails, stimulants, and even in soft drinks such as Coca-Cola. Of course, we now know that cocaine is a highly addictive  substance that can lead to destructive behavior and regrettable fashion choices, but at that time, it was viewed as harmless at worst. One turn-of-the-century doctor was basically a medical Pablo Escobar. His whole practice was fueled by cocaine, leading to some of the most groundbreaking medical advances of his day. Let’s look at the extraordinary career of Dr. William Stewart Halstead: doctor, innovator, and cocaine addict.