Addiction, as defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.
It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain. They change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.” There are a multitude of reasons as to why an individual would chose to indulge themselves with drugs. One of the more prominent arguments for the partaking of drugs is to make the user feel better or just feel good.
However, such as in Dr. Jekyll’s case, others take drugs because they suffer from conditions such as repression or anxiety, which leads him to form his concoction and become addiction to his drug. Personality disorders, such as schizophrenia, can influence drug abuse as well. In Victorian times, drugs were a commonality and could be bought like any other commodity.
Sales of drugs were pretty much unrestricted. They could be purchased simply by walking into a chemist’s shop and asking for it, whether you had a perscription or not. Laudanum, arsenic, opium preparations, and even cocaine were readily available. Around the time the novel was written, cocaine became widely popular in the 1880s. Robert Louis Stevenson is one of many authors during this time period whose works contained numerous references to drug use. “It is alleged that cocaine gave inspiration to Robert Louis Stevenson to write The Strange Case of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” (Diniejko).
Dr. Jekyll created an unusual “elixir-like” substance which transformed him into the evil Mr. Hyde. It is not explicitly revealed as to what exactly Jekyll is taking, but it can be inferred that he was ingestion a form of a psychedelic or mind-altering potion. Jekyll’s initial decision to take the drug is voluntary.
But, with his continued use, his self-control becomes incredibly impaired. “There was something strange in my sensations, something indescribably new and, from its very novelty, incredibly sweet. I felt younger, lighter, happier in body; within I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a millrace in my fancy, a solution of the bonds of obligation, an unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine.” (Stevenson, 80).