Leslie Keeley

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Leslie Enraught Keeley
Leslie Keeley.jpg
Born(1836-06-10)June 10, 1836
DiedFebruary 21, 1900(1900-02-21) (aged 63)
Cause of deathHeart attack
EducationRush Medical College (1836)

Leslie Enraught Keeley, M.D. (June 10, 1836 – February 21, 1900) was an American physician, originator of the Keeley Cure.[1][2][3]


He was born in Potsdam, New York on June 10, 1836.[4]

Keeley graduated at the Rush Medical College, Chicago, in 1863, and later entered the Union Army as a surgeon. At the end of the war he moved to Dwight, Illinois, where he began his private medical practice. There, in 1880, he opened a sanatorium for persons addicted to the immoderate use of alcohol and opium. He asserted that "Alcoholism is a disease and I can cure it." His treatment centered on a secret preparation that he said contained bichloride of gold. However, chemical analysis revealed that the proprietary tonic contained 27.55% alcohol plus ammonium chloride, aloin and tincture of cinchona but no gold. His hypodermic injections contained sulfate of strychnine, atropine and boracic acid.[5][6]

In 1890, Keeley began selling franchises and by 1893 there were 92 Keeley Institutes in the US, Canada, and Mexico[7] and that number grew to over 200 and expanded to Europe.

In 1939, Time magazine reported that "Unvarying is the traditional Keeley routine. An incoming inebriate pays $160, plus room and board, must stay for 31 days. His weekly whiskey ration is gradually tapered off: eight ounces the first day, six ounces the second, four ounces the third, none from there on. Four times a day he gets gold chloride injections; every two hours he takes a tonic." [8] At its height, the clinic in Dwight treated 700 patients per day.[2]

Keeley claimed that when his medicine was administered according to his directions, it had no injurious effects and that 95 per cent of the patients were permanently cured. If they did return to drinking, he insisted that they were cured but that they drank because they choose to do so, not because they were still addicted.[2] However, it was later noted that a "high percentage of those "cured" had relapsed."[9]

Keeley published numerous articles in the popular press in addition to pamphlets promoting his therapy, and wrote The Morphine Eater, or From Bondage to Freedom (1881) and the Non-Heredity of Inebriety (1896).

He died on February 21, 1900 in Los Angeles, California.[1]


The Keeley Institute in Dwight, Illinois was the last to close, doing so in 1966.[10] Despite his therapy being described by medical experts as an example of quackery, Keeley is remembered as one of the first to treat alcoholism as a medical problem.[9][11] The Keeley cure is defined in the American Illustrated Medical Dictionary in the 1938 edition as "a proprietary method of treatment for the alcohol and opium habits by means of gold chloride."

Keeley was widely cited as a quack. A 1908 article in the Illinois Medical Journal stated that "Leslie Keeley was a common, ordinary quack with a useless remedy which made good by advertising and catching suckers."[12]



  • PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Leslie Keeley". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  1. ^ a b "Author Of Keeley Cure Dead. Dr. Leslie E. Keeley Succumbs to Heart Disease at Los Angeles. Leaves Estate of $1,000,000". New York Times. February 21, 1900. Retrieved 2014-01-18. Leslie E. Keeley, the inventor of the 'Keeley cure for the liquor habit,' died in this city today of heart disease. Dr. Keeley had been ill with a severe cold for two days, but nothing serious was feared from it. This morning, while going to his bathroom, he had an attack of heart failure, but recovered and later said there was nothing serious the matter with him. ...
  2. ^ a b c "If Dr. Keeley Could See You Now". Wall Street Journal. December 31, 2007. Retrieved 2014-01-18. In the late 19th century, Dr. Keeley claimed he had invented a scientific cure for alcoholism with a 95% success rate. His Keeley Institute in the small town of Dwight, Ill., was the Betty Ford Center of the era. At its peak, the institute treated some 700 patients a day, and 'gone to Dwight' became shorthand for checking into rehab.
  3. ^ "Gold Cure for the Liquor Habit". Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  4. ^ The American National Biography uses the year 1832. The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography uses 1834. His passport applications consistently use the date June 10, 1836. The 1880 US Census uses 1836. The Virtual International Authority File uses 1842.
  5. ^ "The Keeley 'gold cure' for inebriety". British Medical Journal. 2: 85. 1892. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.1645.85.
  6. ^ James Roosevelt, In Sickness and Health. Appleton, 1896, p. 79
  7. ^ University of New Brunswick Archives & Special Collections-The Leslie E. Keeley Institutes of the Maritime Provinces Company (Fredericton, N.B.) fonds. Lib.unb.ca. Retrieved on 2012-04-21.
  8. ^ Keeley cure, Time, September 25, 1939
  9. ^ a b Reznicek, Michael J. (2012). Blowing Smoke: Rethinking the War on Drugs Without Prohibition and Rehab. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-4422-1516-0
  10. ^ Lobdell, Jared (1 June 2004). This Strange Illness: Alcoholism and Bill W. Aldine Publishing Company. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-202-30739-8. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  11. ^ Blocker; Jack S. Fahey, David M; Tyrrell, Ian R. (2003). Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 346-348. ISBN 1-57607-833-7
  12. ^ The Illinois Medical Journal, Volume 14. Illinois State Medical Society. p. 14