Here’s a story about “the drug dealer to the stars”…

Dr. Max Jacobson fled Nazi Berlin in 1936 and set up a medical practice in New York on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The location couldn’t have been more perfect. He catered to high-profile clients, including writers, musicians, entertainers, and powerful politicians. His rich and famous patients dubbed him “Miracle Max.” The Secret Service code named him “Dr. Feelgood” because of his unorthodox medical treatments for President John F. Kennedy.

Jacobson was known for an elixir he created that he officially referred to as his “miracle tissue regenerator” or his “vitamin energy cocktail.” He’d inject 30- to 50-mg shots of this mixture that rapidly melted away pain and made his patients feel elated with boundless energy. This mood-elevating therapy was supposedly a mix of amphetamines, hormones, animal organ cells, goat and sheep blood, enzymes, bone marrow, solubilized human placenta, painkillers, steroids, and multivitamins.

Max knew that he was only supplying short-term relief that merely concealed his patient’s symptoms, which were typically pain or low energy. Long-term use of amphetamines in the large doses Jacobson used to administer can cause paranoia and conditions such as schizophrenia. What’s more, discontinuing amphetamines suddenly often causes deep depression. Other potential side effects of amphetamine use include impaired judgment, hyperactivity, nervousness, and wild mood swings. But the extreme rush and ultimate high Max’s injections created kept his clients coming back for more and more and more. All of his patients swore by the doctor’s energizing, pain-relieving, pick-me-up potion. The effect was immediate; it made his patients suddenly feel stronger and more alert and it temporarily relieved any type of pain the patient was suffering. It was also highly addictive and could lead to dependence and drug abuse.

But that didn’t bother the good Dr. Feelgood. He injected freely, at all hours of the day or night; whenever his well-heeled patients requested a hit, he’d be available. The list of Max Jacobson’s patients was a virtual Who’s Who of the rich, famous, and powerful. His patients included icons of the 20th century, including President Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Mantle, Elvis Presley, and scores more.

Celebrities of the day lined his office waiting room waiting for their booster shot. One of his nurses said that at times, the doctor would spill out the contents from his medical bag on a table and rummage through a jumble of unmarked bottles and nameless chemicals to make his mixture before injecting his clients. His nurses also reported that Max was injecting himself with his own potpourri mixture.

His Patients Went out the Door Singing

If you were a favored patient, all you had to do was call the doctor and describe your symptoms to him over the phone, and Max would mail them disposable needles and vials of his homemade medicine without an examination. But that type of shoddy medical procedure was typical; he never seemed to examine the patients in his office to make a diagnosis. He’d simply reach for the hypodermic needle and deliver the dose. At the height of his popularity, the doctor was ordering over 1200 needles and more than 650 syringes per week to keep up with the demand. He’d boast that his patients “went out the door singing.”

After studying under Carl Jung, Jacobson began to experiment with liquid methamphetamine—a drug that enhances moods and stimulates the emotions—mixing it with vitamins, enzymes, animal placenta, blood serum, and hormones that he tested on animals, his patients, and himself. Celebrities such as Elvis Presley couldn’t help falling in love with the drug!

So how exactly did Jacobson’s “happy drug” make his patients feel? In the words of Truman Capote: “You feel like Superman. You’re flying. Ideas come at the speed of light. You go 72 hours straight without so much as a coffee break. You don’t need sleep, you don’t need nourishment. If it’s sex you’re after, you go all night.” That was the good part. Capote went on to warn: “Then you crash. It’s “like falling down a well or parachuting without a parachute. You go running back. You’re looking for the German mosquito, the insect with the magic pinprick. He stings you, and all at once you’re soaring again.”

Without a doubt, the doctor’s biggest believer was President Kennedy. JFK was campaigning for president when he first met Dr. Jacobson, complaining of excruciating back pain and low stamina due to the grueling campaign. JFK was injected by Miracle Max right before his first presidential debate with Vice President Richard Nixon. It worked wonders for JFK’s sore throat, aching back, and low energy level, as he went on to perform well and gain a high-profile win that night over his opponent. Kennedy was so invigorated that after he won the presidency, he made Jacobson part of his entourage, although the doctor’s role was kept a secret at the time.

You could say that Jacobson had some influence on history. The doctor was part of the presidential entourage at the 1961 Vienna summit meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, where Jacobson administered injections to combat JFK’s severe back pain. Injections also occurred before major state addresses. Secret Service files showed that Jacobson saw JFK 34 times in 1962. Kennedy’s brother Bobby, then the US attorney general, was not amused. Bobby Kennedy grew so suspicious of Jacobson that he seized some of the doctor’s formula and sent it to the FBI for analysis. When Bobby discovered the formula contained amphetamines, he asked his brother to stop using the drug. JFK replied: “I don’t care if it’s horse piss. It works.”

However, JFK’s addiction almost exploded into a national crisis with his naked romp at the Carlyle Hotel in 1962, when he suffered a serious psychotic reaction to the drugs, ending in a manic condition and furiously waving his arms and running around without any clothes on. The Secret Service called in a doctor who injected JFK with an anti-psychotic drug, finally calming him.

Here are some other tidbits about Jacobson’s injections gone awry:

  • In 1961, Mickey Mantle was injected in the hip by the doctor and experienced a nasty infection, keeping The Mick out of the World Series that year
  • Jackie Kennedy needed it to make it through some stressful days of being the first lady
  • Elvis Presley was hooked even though he had feelings of being out of control and experienced deep depression and a growing addition (Elvis eventually stopped receiving treatments)
  • The night when Marilyn Monroe famously sang Happy Birthday to the president at Madison Square Garden, in 1962, she was on the drugs
  • Jacobson administered increasingly large injections to Tennessee Williams to combat his crippling depression. To counter the amphetamines, he also gave Williams Seconal to overcome insomnia. The Seconal abuse eventually contributed to Williams’ death
  • Film director Otto Preminger said that Jacobson’s drugs gave him “one of the most fearful experiences in my life”
  • Actor Anthony Quinn called Jacobson “underhanded…an evil man”
  • Elizabeth Taylor had a frightening experience on the drugs while filming Cleopatra
  • Singer Harry Belafonte temporarily lost his sight after 1 dose
  • There were rumors that Jacobson killed his own wife, Nina, with an accidental overdose of the drugs
  • In 1969, one of Jacobson’s clients, former presidential photographer Mark Shaw, died at the age of 47. An autopsy showed that Shaw had died of “acute and chronic intravenous amphetamine poisoning”

Beginning in the late 1960s, Jacobson began exhibiting increasingly bizarre behavior. His amphetamine purchases became sufficient for more than 100 strong doses daily. It was suspected that the doctor was injecting himself with his own celebrity concoction more and more frequently. Then, in December of 1972, the New York Times did a massive exposé on his practice. As a result of the Times‘ investigative reporting, Jacobson was charged with 48 counts of unprofessional conduct. The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs moved in and swiftly seized Jacobson’s drug supply. His medical license was revoked in 1975 by the New York State Board of Regents, and he faded into obscurity.

We’ll end this story with some lyrics from an Aretha Franklin hit song–words that no doubt were inspired by Dr. Max Jacobson…

I got me a man named Dr. Feelgood

And oh yeah, that man takes care of all my pains and my ills

And after one visit to Dr. Feelgood

You’d understand why Feelgood is his name

Oh, yeah!

Good God almighty the man sure makes me feel real good

Reference

  1. Bryk W. Dr. Feelgood: past and present. New York Sun Web site. September 20, 2005. http://www.nysun.com/out-and-about/dr-feelgood.
  2. Dr. Feelgood. Dr. Feelgood Book website. http://drfeelgoodbook.com.
  3. Jackie O’s perfectly-designed Camelot was also full of uppers. Jezebel Web site. http://jezebel.com/310138/jackie-os-perfectly+designed-camelot-was-also-full-of-uppers.
  4. Rennell T. Hooked by Dr Feelgood: from Monroe and JFK to Liz Taylor, a sensational book reveals how America’s elite were in thrall to a shady German doctorwho injected them with mind-blowing drugs. Daily Mail Web site. November 14, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2507625/New-book-reveals-Marilyn-Monroe-JFK-Liz-Taylor-thrall-shady-German-Dr-Max-Jacobson.html.