Pubdate: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 Source: Toronto Star (CN ON) Page: A9 Copyright: 2000 The Toronto Star Contact: email@example.com Address: One Yonge St., Toronto ON, M5E 1E6 Fax: (416) 869-4322 Website: http://www.thestar.com/ Forum: http://www.thestar.com/editorial/disc_board/ Author: Adam Clymer, New York Times
`NEUROTIC' NIXON TOOK MOOD DRUG IN WHITE HOUSE
Book paints picture of anxiety, depression
WASHINGTON - The late U.S. president Richard Nixon medicated himself with a mood-altering prescription drug in the White House and, depressed by hostile public reaction to the bombing of Cambodia in 1970, he consulted a New York psychotherapist who considered him ``neurotic,'' according to a biography to be published today.
Moreover, concern about Nixon's mental state in 1974 led secretary of defence, James Schlesinger, to order all military units not to react to orders from ``the White House'' unless they were cleared with him or the secretary of state, writes Anthony Summers in The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon.
Schlesinger confirmed the account in an interview Friday, and said the book's description of events was the most complete and most accurate account of his actions, which had been reported in more general terms earlier. The book quotes him as saying, ``I am proud of my role in protecting the integrity of the chain of command. You could say it was synonymous with protecting the constitution.''
He confirmed Friday that that was how he felt.
The book reports the prescription drug Dilantin was given to Nixon in 1968 by Jack Dreyfus, the founder of the Dreyfus Fund and an enthusiastic promoter and user of the drug, after the two men had dinner with friends in Florida.
Confirming the account, Dreyfus said in a recent interview that the drug is effective in dealing with ``fear, worry, guilt, panic, anger and related emotions, irritability, rage, mood, depression, violent behaviour, hyper-glycemia, alcohol, anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, cardiac arrhythmia, muscular disorders.''
Dreyfus said in the interview he gave Nixon a bottle of 1,000 100-milligram capsules, ``when his mood wasn't too good.'' He said Nixon scoffed when he said the pills should be prescribed by a doctor, and he later gave the president another 1,000 capsules. In the book, Dreyfus says Nixon told him: ``To heck with the doctor.''
Dr. Richard Friedman, director of the psychopharmacology clinic at Cornell medical school in New York, said in a recent interview that Dilantin was properly used to prevent convulsions and anxiety, but has been discredited for psychiatric use.
He said Dilantin has ``potentially very serious side-effect risks, like change of mental status, person becoming confused, loss of memory, irritability, (and) definitely could have an effect on cognitive function.''
Nixon's pre-presidency treatments by Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker have been reported. But the White House and Nixon allies steadfastly denied Nixon was treated once he became president.
Robbyn Swan, Summers' wife and collaborator, said in a telephone interview that she had interviewed Hutschnecker in 1995 and 1997. Speaking from their home near Waterford, Ireland, she played a tape recording of part of an interview with Hutschnecker, in which he said of Nixon: ``He didn't have a serious psychiatric diagnosis. He wasn't psychotic. He had no pathology, but he had a good portion of neurotic symptoms: anxiety'' and sleeplessness.
Hutschnecker, who is 102 and living in Sherman, Conn., declined through a caregiver to be interviewed.