Tuesday’s Google Doodle celebrates the work of psychiatrist Herbert Kleber, one of the first to treat addiction as a medical problem.
In the 1960s, Kleber worked for the U.S. Public Health Service at a prison hospital in Kentucky, and he noticed that most of the inmates who came to the prison with drug addictions relapsed as soon as they left. Believing that there must be a better way to treat addiction, Kleber began researching addiction as a medical issue. His approach focused on looking for scientific evidence of which therapies and medications actually helped addicts and which were ineffective. Kleber was one of the first physicians to approach addiction the way medical researchers had long been approaching other physical and psychiatric illnesses, and he led the development of the field of medical treatment for addiction.
Kleber founded a department dedicated to researching and treating addiction at Yale University in 1968. In 1989, he left Yale to serve as Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush. At the end of his appointment, Kleber returned to academia, and in 1992 he and his wife Marian Fischmann co-founded a research center called the Substance Abuse Division at Columbia University to continue the work of researching the causes of, and better treatments for, addiction.
“Of course I’m an optimist,” he reportedly said. “How else do I work with addicts for 40 years?” On October 1, 1996, Kleber was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the American medical field’s highest honors. He died on October 5, 2018.