CAROL SUTTON LEWIS: In the 1960s, heroin addiction was on the rise in the United States, and some prominent people thought the only answer was to lock everyone up.
KATIE HAFNER: But a New York psychiatrist named Marie Nyswander had a different idea: treat addiction by giving people a drug called methadone.
ANNOUNCER: This is a methadone clinic. Every day, Dave comes here to get his medication, as do about a hundred other former heroin addicts.
KATIE HAFNER: And this was controversial because methadone, like heroin, is an opioid
CAROL SUTTON LEWIS: Dr. Nyswander already had a reputation as a bold and maybe even reckless defier of convention.
DAVID COURTWRIGHT: We're talking about a person who reinvented herself, who was capable of wearing masks like crazy.
MARJORIE SENECHAL: She did things that were outrageous.
BRUCE TRIGG: Somewhere I heard that she'd been a communist. Have-have you ever heard that?
CAROL SUTTON LEWIS: And Marie Nyswander turned the world of addiction upside down when she and her team at Rockefeller Institute started their experiment with methadone, just two patients to begin with, both addicted to heroin for several years.
MARIE NYSWANDER: I'd sit here at night waiting for them to come back in. Total terror every night. I had been around too long and seen too many miracles, which turned out not to work.
KATIE HAFNER: And the results? Well…to find out, join us on Thursday, March 30th for Season Five of Lost Women of Science. I'm Katie Haffner,
CAROL SUTTON LEWIS: And I'm Carol Sutton Lewis.
KATIE HAFNER: And this season—The Doctor and the Fix: How Marie Nyswander changed the landscape of addiction.
Katie Hafner was a longtime reporter for The New York Times, where she continues to be a frequent contributor. Katie is uniquely positioned to tell the stories of lost women of science. Not only does she bring a skilled hand to complex narratives, but she has been writing about women in STEM for nearly 30 years. She is the author of six books of non-fiction, and her first novel, The Boys, was published in July 2022 by Spiegel & Grau. Katie is also the host and executive producer of Our Mothers Ourselves, an interview podcast that celebrates extraordinary mothers.
Nyswanderweg, a tiny street in Hamburg, Germany, is easy to miss. Yet it’s the only street in the world named after the American methadone pioneer, Marie Nyswander. How did that happen?
In many ways, Marie Nyswander got what she wanted after discovering the miracles of methadone, but how well has that worked out?
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.
A young psychoanalyst specializing in sexual issues starts getting calls for help – about something else entirely.
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.