Thomas A. Ban
Neuropsychopharmacology in Historical Perspective
Education in the Field in the Post-Neuropsychopharmacology Era

Jacques-Joseph Moreau de Tours

Educational Series 2. Bulletin 1


            The roots of psychopharmacology are in the mid-19th century in the research of the French psychiatrist Jacques - Joseph Moreau (1804 -1884), usually referred to as Moreau de Tours after the city (Tours) in which he began with his medical studies (Ban 2004; Shorter 2005).

            Moreau started his career in psychiatry with Jean-Etienne-Dominique Esquirol (1772-1840) at the national asylum in Charenton, a suburb of Paris. Esquirol used to send patients traveling abroad and entrust some of them to the care of Moreau. This gave Moreau an opportunity to visit the “Orient” (Far East) to become acquainted with and interested in “hashish” (Collet 1952). By the 1840s his interest expanded and Moreau was intensively involved in the study and treatment of mental pathology with drugs (Pichot 1983).

            Moreau’s rational for using drugs in the treatment of his patients was in keeping with the principle of homeopathy which stipulates that “a medicinal substance that can evoke certain symptoms in healthy individuals may be effective in the treatment of the illness having symptoms closely resembling those produced by the substance” (Stedman 1982). He maintained that if symptoms of mental illness could be substituted by similar symptoms induced by drugs they would become more accessible for control (Caldwell 1970). By pursuing his research within this frame of reference, in 1841 Moreau published a 43-page pamphlet on the treatment of hallucinations with Datura stramonium (Moreau 1841).

            Moreu’s research culminated in 1845 with the publication of his monograph Du hachisch et de l’aliénation mentale: études psychologiques. It is based on his findings in a series of systematic studies in which he administered the substance known as a “dawamse,” a flavored paste (electuary) of hashish , or as a pure extract of hashish, together with black coffee to enhance (potentiate) and accelerate its effects and to mask its taste (Caldwell 1970). The series included self-experiments and the administration of the substance to his students (normal subjects) and to psychiatric patients with different diagnoses in escalating and diminishing doses. The findings of his research indicated that the effects of the substance were not just dose dependent but also diagnosis dependent, i.e., not just different in normal subjects from patients with mental illness, but also different in patients with different diagnoses or even with different symptoms within diagnoses.

            By taking the substance himself, Moreau recognized that “by its mode of action on the mental faculties it gives to everyone who submits himself to its strange influence, the power of studying on himself the moral disturbances of mental illness, or at least the principal intellectual disorders, from which all kinds of mental disturbances originate” (Mayer-Gross, Slater and Roth 1960). Furthermore, he speculated that hashish could serve as a torchlight “in the mysteries of insanity, taking us back to the hidden source of these disorders which are so numerous and variegated and so strange” (Shorter 1997).



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Caldwell AE. History of Psychopharmacology. In: Clark WG, Del Giudice J, editors. Principles of Psychopharmacology. New York: Academic Press; 1970.

Caldwell AE. Origins of Psychopharmacology. From CPZ to LSD. Springfield: Thomas; 1970.

Collet CG. Les fundateurs de la Société médico-psychologique. Ann Médicopsychol (Paris) 1952; 110:48-72.

Mayer-Gross W, Slater E, Roth M. Clinical Psychiatry. Second edition. Cassell and Company: Melbourne; 1960.

Moreau J. Mémoire sur le traitement des hallucinations par le Datura stramonium. Paris: Rouvier and LeBouvier; 1841.

Moreau J. Du hachisch et de l’aliénation mentale: études psychologiques. Paris: Fortin and Masspn; 1845

Pichot P. A Century of Psychiatry. Paris: Roger Dacosta; 1983.

Shorter E. A History of Psychiatry New York: John Wile and Sons; 1997.

Shorter E. A Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry. Oxford: University Press; 2005.

Stedman TL. Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. 25th edition. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins; 1982. 


January 18, 2018