Marie Nyswander

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Marie Nyswander
Born (1919-03-13)March 13, 1919
Reno, Nevada
Died April 20, 1986(1986-04-20) (aged 67)
Occupation Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst
Known for methadone treatment of heroin addicts

Marie Nyswander (March 13, 1919 – April 20, 1986) was an American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst[1] known for developing and popularizing the use of methadone to treat heroin addiction.[2]


Nyswander was born on March 13, 1919, in Reno, Nevada.[3] Her father, James Nyswander, was a mathematics professor[3][4] and her mother was noted health educator Dorothy Bird Nyswander;[3][5] they divorced soon after her birth, and Nyswander followed her mother to Berkeley, Salt Lake City, and New York City.[3][5] Her original name was Mary Elizabeth Nyswander; she took the name Marie as a teenager.[3]

Nyswander graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1937 and trained as a physician and surgeon at the Cornell University medical school until 1944; while at Cornell, she was briefly married to anatomy instructor Charles Berry.[3] After finishing her studies at Cornell, she attempted to join the Navy, but discovered that they did not allow women to serve as surgeons. Instead she took up a position at the Lexington Narcotic Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, under the auspices of the United States Public Health Service, where researchers such as Abraham Wikler were beginning to uncover the physiological basis of addiction. At Lexington, addicts were treated harshly:[3][6] for instance, women at the facility were confined to their building except for a once-a-week movie.[7] Nyswander's attempts to provide outside walks for the women were halted after they were caught sending messages to the male inmates, and she was also reprimanded for giving out morphine shots to the inmates one Christmas.[7]

In the late 1940s, Nyswander began studying psychoanalysis at the New York Medical College, under the supervision of Lewis Wolberg, and in the 1950s she held a private practice in New York. In 1955 she helped found the Narcotic Addiction Research Project, a program for treating drug addicts using psychotherapy, and through the 1950s and 1960s she continued to treat addicts in two programs, a clinic for jazz musicians that she founded with Charles Winick and a local church program. She also treated patients of other types and wrote two books, one about her experiences treating drug addicts and another about sexuality. During this period she was married to her second husband, Leonard Wallace Robinson, a writer and editor; they became engaged in 1953, divorced in 1965, and had no children.[3][6] A book review from 1962 describes her as "slim, brunette ... wife of a writer and mother of a 15-year-old son".[8][9]

In the early 1960s, Vincent Dole invited Nyswander to join his staff at Rockefeller University. Dole was a metabolic specialist who had become interested in addiction in 1962 when a colleague had gone on sabbatical, leaving a vacancy on Rockefeller's Committee on Narcotics that Dole filled; he called on Nyswander because of her expertise with addiction. In turn, Nyswander had become frustrated by the high relapse rate of her addicted patients, a factor that prepared her to find a non-psychological explanation for their addiction. Dole and Nyswander began their research by observing the effects of different narcotics on addicts, and discovered that morphine and methadone led to quite different behaviors. By 1965 (the year Dole and Nyswander married), they had data on 22 different subjects, and published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed up by several articles in other journals. They hypothesized that heroin addiction was a metabolic disease, and that methadone could be used as a drug to treat this disease, contradicting earlier beliefs that addiction was purely a personality disorder and that addiction to methadone remained an addiction the treatment of which should lead to abstinence. Dole and Nyswander soon set up a local program for treating addicts with methadone, and similar programs eventually became widespread around the country and around the world.[3][6]

Nyswander died in 1986 of cancer, possibly caused by her lifelong addiction to cigarettes.[6] Until her death, she continued to promote methadone treatment and to defend it against its critics.[3]


Nyswander is the author or co-author of a number of books and papers:


  • Nyswander, Marie (1956), The Drug Addict as a Patient, Grune & Stratton, ASIN B0007DNW6O . This book already contained the idea that drug addiction should be treated as a medical problem.[10] It begins with a description of the legal history under which, beginning with the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914, drug addiction was criminalized and clinics closed. It continues to describe the pharmacology, physiology, psychology, and sociology of opiate addiction. Although it discusses methadone as a method for getting addicts through the period of physical withdrawal, it considers psychotherapy to be a more important part of addiction treatment.[11] At the time Vincent Dole began his researches into addiction in the early 1960s, it was the only study of street addicts he could find[12] and in 1966 the New York Times described it as Nyswander's "definitive book".[13]
  • Robinson, Marie N. (1959), The Power of Sexual Surrender, New American Library, ASIN B0007EWYQ2 . This book, about frigidity in women, also advocates that women take a traditional family role at home, "keeping the tone of the home happy and loving" while letting "the men go out and make the money".[8] Based on Freudian analysis, it defines women who reach orgasm through clitoral stimulation as being frigid[14][15] and claims that women lacking sexual satisfaction have themselves to blame rather than their partners.[16] In the mid-1970s this book was popularized again by the success of Marabel Morgan's anti-feminist self-help book The Total Woman and lecture courses associated with it.[17][18]

Selected papers[edit]

Subsequent to this work, Nyswander coauthored many other papers on heroin addiction and methadone treatment. The most heavily cited of these[20] are:

Awards and honors[edit]

Nyswander was the co-recipient with her spouse Vincent Dole of the first annual award of the National Drug Abuse Conference in 1978.[1] In 1982, they won the Nathan B. Eddy Award of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence.[22]

Nyswander and Dole's work led to the creation in 1982 of the Nyswander–Dole Award, given annually by the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence for "extraordinary work and service in the opioid treatment field". It is fondly named 'The Marie Award', and Nyswander and Dole were the first recipients.[1][23][24] Another award in her name, the Marie E. Nyswander Award of the International Association for Pain and Chemical Dependency, is given for "lifetime accomplishments in advancing compassionate and humane treatment of patients suffering from pain".[25]

Nyswanderweg, a street in Hamburg, Germany, was named after Nyswander in 1994.[26] The Marie Nyswander Clinic of the Beth Israel Medical Center is also named after Nyswander.[27]

In 2000, a special issue of the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine concerning methadone treatment was dedicated to Nyswander's memory.[28]

Additional reading[edit]

  • Hentoff, Nat (1968), A Doctor Among the Addicts: The Story of Marie Nyswander, New York: Rand McNally, ISBN 978-0-528-81946-9 . Reviewer Alfred Darby writes that "Nyswander's personality comes across loud and clear" in this portrait of her work as a psychiatrist and a humanist and of her program for treating addicts using methadone.[29] Hentoff also wrote two profiles of Nyswander in The New Yorker, dated June 26 and July 3, 1965.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Kosten, Thomas R (1998), "Images in Psychiatry. Marie Nyswander, 1919–1986" (PDF), American Journal of Psychiatry, 155 (12): 1766, PMID 9842790 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Courtwright, David (2000), "Nyswander, Marie", American National Biography .
  4. ^ James Andrew Nyswander at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ a b Lach, Edward L., Jr. (2000), "Nyswander, Dorothy B.", American National Biography .
  6. ^ a b c d Courtwright, David T. (1997), "The prepared mind: Marie Nyswander, methadone maintenance, and the metabolic theory of addiction", Addiction, 92 (3): 257–266, doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.1997.tb03196.x, PMID 9219388 .
  7. ^ a b Senechal, Marjorie (2003), "Narco Brat", in Patey, D., Of Human Bondage (PDF), Smith College Studies in History, 52, Smith College .
  8. ^ a b Miller, Joy (May 11, 1962), "The Truth Will Out!", The Evening Independent .
  9. ^ The son is likely Roderick Robinson, born in 1946 from Robinson's second marriage; for more on Robinson see Guide to the Patricia Goedicke and Leonard Wallace Robinson Papers 1910-2006, bulk 1931-2006, University of Montana-Missoula, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, Archives and Special Collections, accessed 2015-01-11.
  10. ^ "Addiction research pioneer dies at 67", Chicago Sun-Times, Apr 21, 1986 .
  11. ^ Kolb, Lawrence (1957), "Book Reviews: The Drug Addict as a Patient, Marie Nyswander, M.D.", Crime Delinquency, 3: 338–340, doi:10.1177/001112875700300322 .
  12. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (August 3, 2006), "Dr. Vincent P. Dole, Methadone Researcher, Is Dead at 93", New York Times .
  13. ^ Samuels, Gertrude (April 10, 1966), "A Visit to Narco", New York Times .
  14. ^ Kline-Graber, Georgia; Graber, Benjamin (1975), Woman's orgasm: a guide to sexual satisfaction, Bobbs-Merril, pp. 18–19, ISBN 978-0-672-52184-3 .
  15. ^ Evans, Sara Margaret (1997), Born for liberty: a history of women in America, Simon and Schuster, p. 249, ISBN 978-0-684-83498-6 .
  16. ^ Cook, Hera (2005), The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex, and Contraception 1800-1975, Oxford University Press, p. 234, ISBN 978-0-19-925218-3 .
  17. ^ Rozen, Leah (December 5, 1975), "The 'Total Woman': Sexpot and Saint", Daily Collegian .
  18. ^ Maynard, Joyce (September 28, 1975), "The liberation of Total Woman; If it is the aim of the Steinems, Greers and Milletts to wage a war, it is the aim of Marabel Morgan and her followers to keep the peace", New York Times .
  19. ^ Kuehn, Bridget M., "Methadone treatment marks 40 years", Journal of the American Medical Association, 294 (8): 887–889, doi:10.1001/jama.294.8.887, PMID 16118372 .
  20. ^ According to a Google scholar search, 2009-12-10.
  21. ^ A freely readable copy of this paper is available from the Drug Policy Alliance.
  22. ^ Award winners, College on Problems of Drug Dependence, retrieved 2013-07-16.
  23. ^ "The Nyswander-Dole Award". Friends Research Institute. Retrieved 2009-12-06. Fondly called “The Marie Award” after Dr. Nyswander, the Nyswander-Dole Award was first presented in 1983 to recognize extraordinary work and service in the opioid treatment field. 
  24. ^ Nyswander-Dole recipients 1983–2004.
  25. ^ News from IAPCD, July/August 2008, Volume 3, Issue 5.
  26. ^ Bodenordnung in Hamburg (PDF) (in German), Hamburg, Germany, 2001, retrieved 2009-12-10 .
  27. ^ Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program at the Beth Israel Medical Center.
  28. ^ Joseph, Herman (2000), "Dedication: Marie E. Nyswander, M.D. (1919 - 1986)" (PDF), Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 67 (5&6): 339 .
  29. ^ Darby, Alfred E., Jr. (1970), "Book Reviews: A Doctor among the Addicts, Nat Hentoff", Crime Delinquency, 16: 111–112, doi:10.1177/001112877001600114 .