Sunday, July 24, 2011

My two cents on Amy Winehouse's death

It's quite intriguing that news of Sigmund Freud's cocaine use seems to have become a popular topic of discussion just as the world is learning of Amy Winehouse's death. Both talented individuals, both drug users, but these two met very different fates.
Successful recoveries, such as Freud's, seem to be the exception rather than the rule. This morning, I read a review of a new book called An Anatomy of Addiction which compares scientists Sigmund Freud and William Halsted. In the case of Freud, Markel observes that cocaine use made him more observant of feelings than he was before. Halsted, meanwhile, was able to continue working as a successful professional but the drug use apparently affected his personal life.
Sherwin Nuland's Times review concludes by writing:
[Markel] has written a tour de force of scientific and social history, one that helps illuminate a unique period in the long story of medical discovery — and the not insignificant cohort of experimenters who have fallen victim to their own research.
Amy Winehouse wasn't a scientist, but she was a talented musician praised for being "eclectic" and for combining different genres into her work. She has influenced artists such as Lady Gaga and Adele, according to this article. And like Freud and Halsted, her work was influenced by her drug use. She was ultimately never able to recover from her dangerous habits, which brought her short life to a sad ending.
While I was never a particularly big fan of Winehouse's music (I didn't like it enough to buy it and my mom always made us change the station when it came on), I can certainly see that she had talent, perhaps even rare talent. Incidents like this, as well as stories about famous scientists, are just a reminder that drugs don't care how smart or talented you are.
A sobering thought, to say the least.

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