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Alfred M. Freedman

By Sergio Machado

Alfred M. Freedman was born in Albany, New York, in 1917. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1941, and completed his training in general and child psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital, in Manhattan, in the early 1950s (Freedman 2000, 2011).

During his residency, Freedman became involved in studying the effects of psychotropic drugs, as they appeared on the psychiatric scene, in psychiatric disorders in children. He continued with this research at Downstate Medical Center, in New York, throughout the 1950s, and over a decade, he explored the effects of diphenhydramine, mephenesin, meprobamate, promethazine, chlorpromazine in disturbed children with psychiatric disorders (Freedman et al 1955), and of iproniazid and lysergic acid diethylamide in “schizophrenic autistic children” (Freedman 1958; Freedman, Ebin and Wilson 1962).  In the course of this research he found diphenhydramine and promethazine effective in controlling disturbed behavior in children, and recognized that as a “tranquilizer”, chlorpromazine was superior to all other drugs he tried (Freedman 2000). He found chlorpromazine effective also in controlling vomiting in children with familial dysautonomia (Freeedman et al. 1957). None of the drugs he tried had therapeutic effect in “schizophrenic autistic children” (Freedman 1958; Freedman, Ebin and Wilson 1962).   

In 1960, Freedman was appointed chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the New York Medical College, and during the 1960s, in collaboration with Max Fink, he contributed to the clinical development of the first series of opiate antagonists: cyclazocine, naloxone, and naltrexone (Freedman et al 1968, 1970). His collaboration with Fink continued, and in a study conducted with Costas Stefanis, in Greece, they were among the first, in the mid-1970s, to demonstrate that there was no clinically detectable brain damage in heavy chronic hashish users over a decade (Fink et al. 1976; Freedman 2000; Stefanis et al. 1976). Freedman was also a member of the team that reported favorable effects with an extract of Gingko biloba in dementia (Le Bars, Katz, Berman, Itil, Freedman and Schatzberg 1997).

Independent of his contributions to neuropsychopharmacology, Freedman conceived, and co-edited with Harold Kaplan, Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, the first edition of which was published in 1967. Subsequently, he served as president of the American Psychopathological Association, in 1971; of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, in 1972; and of the American Psychiatric Association,in 1973-1974.

Alfred M. Freedman died in 2011, in New York City, at age 94.

Fink M, C. Stefanis  C, Liakos A, Boulougouris J, Freedman AM.  Chronic hashish use and mental disorder. Am. J. Psychiary 1976: 133: 225-227

Freedman AM.Treatment of autistic children with Marsilid. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Psychopathology 1958; 19: 138-45.

Freedman AM. Almost fifty years in psychopharmacology: A memoir. In: Ban TA, Healy D, Shorter E, editors. The Triumph of Psychopharmacology and the Story of CINP. Budapest: Animula; 2000, pp.  261- 4.

Freedman AM, interviewed by Thomas A. Ban. In: Ban TA, series editor. An Oral History Neuropsychopharmacology. Volume 1- Starting Up (Shorter E, volume editor).  Brentwood: American College of Neuropsychopharmacology; 2011, pp. 225-64.

Freedman AM, Ebin EV, Wilson EA. Autistic schizophrenic children. An experiment in the use of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD 25). Archives of General Psychiatry 1962; 6: 203-13.

Freedman AM, Effron AS, Bender L. Pharmacotherapy in children with psychiatric illness. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders 1955; 122: 479-85.

Freedman AM, Fink M, Sharoff R, Zaks A.Clinical studies of cyclazocine in the treatment of narcotic addiction.American Journal of Psychiatry 1968; 124: 1499-504.

Freedman AM, Helme W, Havel J, Eustis MJ, Riley C, Langford WS.Psychiatricaspects of familial dysautonomia. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 1957; 27:96-106.

Freedman AM, Kaplan H, eds. Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry.Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins; 1967.

Freedman AM, Zaks A, Resnick R, Fink M. Blockade with methadone, cyclazocine and naloxone. International Journal of the Addictions 1970; 5: 507-15. . 

Le Bars PL, Katz MM, Beman N, Itil TM, Freedman AM, Schatzberg AF. A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of an extract of Gingko biloba for dementia. JAMA 1997; 278: 1327-32.  

Stefanis C, Liakos A, Boulougouris J, Fink M, Freedman AM. Chronic hashish use and mental disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 1976; 133: 225-7.


Sergio Machado

July 31st 2014