In 1965, a team of doctors at Rockefeller University announced what sounded like a miracle—they’d found a treatment for heroin addiction that actually seemed to work.
For nearly two years, the researchers had been running an experiment with a small group of men, aged 19 to 37, who’d been using heroin for several years—and the results were astonishing. Men who’d been transfixed by heroin cravings for years, who had tried to quit before and failed, were suddenly able to return to their lives. One started painting. Another finished high school and got a scholarship to go to college.
The key to these transformations was a drug called methadone. But the treatment was controversial, and one of the doctors on the team already had a bit of a reputation as a bold, and possibly even reckless, defier of convention: Marie Nyswander.
This season, we bring you her story and the radical treatment that would upend the landscape of addiction for decades to come.
This podcast is distributed by PRX and published in partnership with Scientific American. Art credit: Graphic design by Janice Fung.
After listening to the podcast, visit our Resources page to learn more about the subjects of our episodes.
Introducing The Doctor and the Fix: How Marie Nyswander changed the landscape of addiction
A young doctor looking for adventure abroad is posted to rural Kentucky, where she learns about addiction for the first time—and starts ruffling feathers.
A young psychoanalyst specializing in sexual issues starts getting calls for help – about something else entirely.
Marie thinks she’s finally found a treatment for heroin addiction that will work as a long-term solution, but not everyone agrees—including some of the people she’s trying to help.
In many ways, Marie Nyswander got what she wanted after discovering the miracles of methadone, but how well has that worked out?
PRX, our podcast distributor, produces and distributes audio content and trains talented independent producers. With an award-winning portfolio of iconic public radio programs such as ‘The World,” “This American Life,” “The Moth Radio Hour,” “Latino USA” “Snap Judgment,” and “Reveal,” PRX is also home to a growing body of podcast productions, including via the Radiotopia podcast network and the TRAX podcast network for tweens.
SciAm covers the advances in research and discovery that are changing our understanding of the world and shaping our lives. Founded 1845, it is the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States and now reaches more than 10 million people around the world each month through its website, print and digital editions, newsletters and app. Authoritative, engaging features, news, opinion and multimedia stories from journalists and expert authors—including more than 200 Nobel Prize winners—provide need-to-know coverage, insights and illumination of the most important developments at the intersection of science and society.
Barnard is one of the most selective academic institutions in the nation, Barnard College is devoted to empowering young women to pursue their passions. Throughout the 2021-22 academic year, Barnard is celebrating all things related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at the College. Barnard’s expert faculty, its symbiotic relationship with Columbia University, and its location in New York City makes it singularly positioned to offer unparalleled opportunities to women who will become tomorrow’s STEM leaders. The College has also increasingly incorporated STEM curricula and programming into its liberal arts education, providing students with interdisciplinary knowledge and skill sets that they can carry beyond Barnard.