The Senator Who Was Addicted to Morphine Supplied by the Head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics

Senator Joseph McCarthy served as a U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. He became the most visible public face in America when he alleged that numerous communists and Soviet spies had infiltrated the U.S. government, universities, and especially the Hollywood film industry. The term "McCarthyism", coined in 1950 in reference to McCarthy's practices, was soon applied to similar anti-communist activities. What most people don’t know is that after his condemnation and censure in the late 1950s, McCarthy became addicted to morphine. Harry J. Anslinger (inset), head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, became aware of McCarthy’s addiction and demanded that he stop using the drug. McCarthy refused. In response, Anslinger decided to give McCarthy access to morphine in secret from a pharmacy in Washington, DC. The morphine was paid for by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, right up to McCarthy’s death. Anslinger never publicly named McCarthy, even threatening to imprison a journalist who uncovered the story if he went public with it. McCarthy died at Bethesda Naval Hospital on May 2, 1957 at the age of 48. His death certificate listed the cause of death as “Hepatitis, acute, cause unknown.” He was given a state funeral that was attended by 70 senators.