Rik Loose – A Review of Freud’s Early Remarks on addiction – From and Ideal to Masturbation

THE LETTER 14 (Autumn 1998) pages 65-86

 ‘…why isn’t everyone a drinker?’

de Mijolla and Shentoub


It is a remarkable fact that there is no real substantial psychoanalytic theory of addiction, especially given that Freud had clinical experience of working with addicts. This fact is even more remarkable when you know that one of Freud’s first attempts to cure someone was his clinical intervention with his friend and colleague, Ernst von Fleischl-Marxov. Freud had hoped that cocaine could help his friend to get rid of an addiction to morphine. This attempt failed and eventually von Fleischl-Marxov died from a cocaine addiction. Surely these clinical encounters must have aroused Freud’s interest in the problem of addiction and provoked questions regarding its metapsychology? Freud had a curious mind and his theory and metapsychology was always developed on the basis of his clinical work with patients. There are numerous references to addiction in his writings, ranging from his pre-analytical period to the end of his life, which are interesting and important but it is nonetheless strange that he never wrote an article dealing exclusively with addiction. Despite the many references, we can still speak of a relative silence in Freud’s work with regards to this clinical problem. Freud has developed elaborate theories on neurosis, perversion and psychosis. Why is there no such elaborate theory on addiction in his work? Are there any deep-rooted psychological motives in Freud that contributed to this neglect? These questions have been taken up by some authors and we do not propose to deal with them here.3 It is well known that Freud’s…

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