It was public knowledge that the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist used to be addicted to Placidyl back in the 70's. But now that he's deceased, the FBI recently released their "Rehnquist file" and the true extent of his addiction is detailed therein. Placidyl, or ethchlorvynol, was a semi-common tranquilizer used back in the 70's and early 80's. When the pharmacoepia of benzodiazepines expanded and their use became more widespread, they replaced more addictive, stronger drugs like Placydil, Seconal, Nembutal, Tuinal, and of course Quaaludes, most of which are no longer on the market. Placydil is no longer made as of 1999, as I recall. Indeed, the golden age of tranquilizers was the late 1970s, and it turns out Justice Rehnquist enjoyed his share of the tranquility.
Also detailed in the declassified file was Rehnquist's 1981 hospital stay for treatment of back pain and his dependence on powerful prescription pain-relief medication.
The FBI investigated his dependence on Placidyl, which Rehnquist had taken for at least 10 years, according to a summary of a 1970 medical examination.
When Rehnquist checked into a hospital in 1981 for a weeklong stay, doctors stopped administering the drug, causing what a hospital spokesman at the time said was a "disturbance in mental clarity."
The FBI file, citing one of his physicians, said Rehnquist experienced withdrawal symptoms that included trying to escape the facility and discerning changes in the patterns on the hospital curtains. The justice also thought he heard voices outside his room discussing various plots against him.
The doctor said Placidyl is a highly toxic drug and that she could not understand why anyone would prescribe it, especially for long periods.
Prior to his hospitalization, Rehnquist occasionally slurred his speech in his questions to lawyers at Supreme Court arguments. Those problems ceased when he changed medications, the doctor said.
It should be noted that Placidyl is not a painkiller, but a tranquilizer. Of course if you take enough of it, you'll be unconscious and won't feel anything. Physical withdrawal from tranquilizers such as Placidyl, barbiturates, and even the "safer" benzodiazepines can be very dangerous, much more dangerous than withdrawal from painkillers. In fact, only alcohol withdrawal is more life-threatening.
What bothers me is that Rehnquist was so adamantly anti-drug, pro-prohibition, and so unsympathetic to drug users/addicts throughout the many Supreme Court decisions he authored or joined. Granted he presumably had legitimate prescriptions for the 11+ years he snarfed down high doses of Placidyls; however, he was always one opposed to any sort of drug use out of general principle, often leading the charge to rape and pillage the Fourth Amendment in order to give the police state more tools/authority to catch, prosecute, and lock up drug users/sellers/addicts. Of course, as Rush Limbaugh taught us all, drug warriors are really only opposed to drugs for everyone else. They support prohibition and feel that fact alone gives them the right to buy all the drugs on the street they want. A combination of hypocrisy, friends in high places, and moral superiority always leads to the most shameful, intolerant, idiotic actions (throw religion in there and you have the four horsemen of jack-assery).