curing E Einstein

Insulin shock therapy or insulin coma therapy (ICT) was a form of psychiatric treatment in which patients were repeatedly injected with large doses of insulin in order to produce daily comas over several weeks. It was introduced in 1927 by Austrian-American psychiatrist Manfred Sakel and used extensively in the 1940s and 1950s, mainly for schizophrenia, before falling out of favour and being replaced by neuroleptic drugs in the 1960s.
Insulin coma therapy was a labour-intensive treatment that required trained staff and a special unit. Patients, who were almost invariably diagnosed with schizophrenia, were selected on the basis of having a good prognosis and the physical strength to withstand an arduous treatment. There were no standard guidelines for treatment; different hospitals and psychiatrists developed their own protocols. Typically, injections were administered six days a week for about two months.
The daily insulin dose was gradually increased to 100–150 units until comas were produced, at which point the dose would be levelled out. Occasionally doses of up to 450 units were used. After about 50 or 60 comas, or earlier if the psychiatrist thought that maximum benefit had been achieved, the dose of insulin was rapidly reduced before treatment was stopped
After the insulin injection patients would experience various symptoms of decreased blood glucose: flushing, pallor, perspiration, salivation, drowsiness or restlessness. Sopor and coma—if the dose was high enough—would follow. Each coma would last for up to an hour and be terminated by intravenous glucose. Seizures sometimes occurred before or during the coma. Many would be tossing, rolling, moaning, twitching, spasming or thrashing around.
The hypoglycemia (pathologically low glucose levels) that resulted from ICT made patients extremely restless, sweaty, and liable to further convulsions and “after-shocks”. In addition, patients invariably emerged from the long course of treatment “grossly obese”. The most severe risks of insulin coma therapy were death and brain damage, resulting from irreversible or prolonged coma respectively. A study at the time claimed that many of the cases of brain damage were actually therapeutic improvement because they showed “loss of tension and hostility”.
Although coma therapy had largely fallen out of use in the USA by the 1970s, it was still being practiced and researched in some hospitals, and may have continued for longer in countries such as China and the Soviet Union.
ICT was popular among psychiatrists because “administering (it) made psychiatry seem a more legitimately medical field”, “It meant that psychiatrists had something to do, it made them feel like real doctors instead of just institutional attendants”



In 2013, French physician-and-novelist Laurent Seksik wrote a historical novel about the tragic life of Eduard Einstein: Le cas Eduard Einstein. He related the encounter between Dr Sakel and Mileva Maric, Einstein first wife (and Eduard’s mother), and the way a Sakel’s therapy had been given to Eduard.

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One Comment on “curing E Einstein”

  1. barbara wolff Says:

    You are correct: Laurent Seksik wrote a novel. And novelists are allowed to depart from the historic truth. The truth is that there was no encounter between Eduard’s mother and Dr. Sakel. But it is true that Eduard got an insuline treatment by Manfred Sakel.

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