“JFK”….The Nation Remembers A President, But Was He An Addict?

AS Our Nation begins to remember a “President” taken to soon 50 years ago. Many don’t know that the man was also a possible addict.
NOW,  I mean no “Disrespect,” but as I’ve been doing reading and research for this blog post, I came across a “Google search” of websites all about JFK’s public medical records, and a few stories written years ago about his health.

“Now, in the “Spirit” of my blog being a Recovery blog, this information really hit me. Many of you may already know some of the stories and info I’ll share, but I was only, almost 1 years old when JFK was killed. Only 4 days before my 1st birthday. He was shot on Friday, November 22nd, 1963, my birthday was November 26th 1963. Our countries history and direction would be forever changed that day.”

“As a little girl growing up, each year after “JFK” was killed, around 5 or 6 years old, I remember watching on TV the re-runs they would show of his Funeral, and  I remember vividly seeing the casket being on a flat-bed or open carriage pulled by horse’s. It is as clear as day to me. That memory has stuck in my head all these years. My father also talked about how our country would be in a better, and much different direction today if “JFK” had the opportunity to serve his term, and would have SURELY Re-elected for a 2nd term.”

See, I never really believed much of all the “Conspiracy Theories” floating around about his death, but I have seen recently a few of the “JFK” TV  specials that have been on, like the one on CNN, and a couple of others.
But they don’t share much about his health, except that he had a crippling back problem. I heard just tonight on a news station, that if he had not been wearing a back brace the day he was shot, the doctors may have been able to save his life.
“Not to sure about that.”

“But what I was never told or taught in “History Class” in school was about “JFK” becoming a possible addict. Most of his addiction and alcohol problems of course were due to the medications he had to take to help reduce the major back pain, and enable him to walk and function with the demands on him as a President.
Here is a little of what I uncovered, and has been written about his health and medications he was taking.”

John F. Kennedy, White House color photo portrait.jpg

In J.F.K. File, Hidden Illness, Pain and Pills….

Published: November 17, 2002

The first thorough examination of President John F. Kennedy’s medical records, conducted by an independent presidential historian with a medical consultant, has found that Kennedy suffered from more ailments, was in far greater pain and was taking many more medications than the public knew at the time or biographers have since described.

As president, he was famous for having a bad back, and since his death, biographers have pieced together details of other illnesses, including persistent digestive problems and Addison’s disease, a life-threatening lack of adrenal function.

But newly disclosed medical files covering the last eight years of Kennedy’s life, including X-rays and prescription records, show that he took painkillers, anti-anxiety agents, stimulants and sleeping pills, as well as hormones to keep him alive, with extra doses in times of stress.

At times the president took as many as eight medications a day, says the historian, Robert Dallek. A committee of three longtime Kennedy family associates, who for decades refused all requests to look at the records, granted Mr. Dallek’s, in part because of his ”tremendous reputation,” said one of them, Theodore C. Sorensen, who was the president’s special counsel.

By the time of the missile crisis, Kennedy was taking antispasmodics to control colitis; antibiotics for a urinary tract infection; and increased amounts of hydrocortisone and testosterone, along with salt tablets, to control his adrenal insufficiency and boost his energy.

The records show that Kennedy was hospitalized for back and intestinal ailments in New York and Boston on nine previously undisclosed occasions from 1955 to 1957, when he was a senator from Massachusetts, campaigning unsuccessfully for the 1956 Democratic vice-presidential nomination — and quietly planning his 1960 presidential bid.

In December 1962, after Jacqueline Kennedy complained that he seemed ”depressed” from taking antihistamines for food allergies, he took a prescribed anti-anxiety drug, Stelazine, for two days. At other times he took similar medications regularly.

The records show that Kennedy variously took Codeine, Demerol, at times Morphine, and Methadone, for pain; Ritalin, a stimulant; meprobamate and librium for anxiety; barbiturates for sleep; thyroid hormone; and injections of a blood derivative, gamma globulin, presumably to combat infections.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy said that his family abided by the committee’s decision to make all judgments like releasing all the medical records.

”While not aware of the exact details of my brother’s medical conditions,” Mr. Kennedy said, ”I did see the great courage he exhibited throughout his life in triumphing over illness and pain.”…….

*Here is another few paragraphs from an ABC News Report I found as well*

JFK Took Many Drugs?

President John F. Kennedy’s medical records reveal that he had suffered health problems since childhood, and used an arsenal of drugs, including painkillers and stimulants, to treat various medical conditions during his presidency.

“Taking Drugs During Crises”

To fight the pain, Kennedy took as many as 12 medications at once, taking more during times of stress.

The medical records reveal that Kennedy variously took codeine, Demerol, even Morphine, and methadone for pain; Ritalin, a stimulant; meprobamate and librium for anxiety; barbiturates for sleep; thyroid hormone; and injections of a blood derivative, gamma globulin, a medicine that combats infections.

During the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, and the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, Kennedy was taking steroids for his Addison’s disease, painkillers for his back, antispasmodics for his colitis, antibiotics for urinary tract infections, antihistamines for his allergies, and on at least one occasion, an anti-psychotic drug to treat a severe mood change that Jackie Kennedy believed was brought on by the antihistamines.

This deluge of drugs often had side effects, including grogginess or even depression. To treat this Kennedy took more still anti-anxiety medications. Yet, there is no indication that the medications impaired JFK’s judgment during crucial moments in U.S. history.

“I studied very closely his performance during these crisis, and what was striking is how effective he was,” Dallek said. “He made a bet with himself and the country, in a sense, that he   could be president, and he carried it off brilliantly. It was extraordinary.”

“Hiding the Pain”

But Kennedy and his closest circle took great pains to hide his health problems from the public, fearing it would impair his political career. JFK was particularly fearful that revelations about his health problems would hurt him in the neck-and-neck presidential race with Richard Nixon in 1960……

The rest of the articles I came across, were mostly disagreements between Doctors, Historians, and Authors, who tried to get “ALL” the medical records unsealed & released, but to no avail. Many authors wrote different takes and stories of his illness’s and the wide range of medications he took on a daily basis. If  he had any addictions to any of the meds listed above, or even an alcohol problem, as it was known he did drink alcohol while taking these various pills. I think it’s no secret the “Kennedy” family did drink much back then, and many past news articles as proof. NO ONE could ever get full permission or access to unseal ALL medical records by the Kennedy family or the government.

“So like the many “Conspiracy Theories” around “JFK’s” death.  LIKE who really was behind it? Well, I guess will never know the “Real Answers,” if he was addicted to the drugs he had to take to function. For myself,  just reading all the medications he did have prescribed to him for all the medical conditions he suffered, makes me really wonder how someone could be alert and function with all the side effects?
“So I guess will never know”…….

Author, Catherine Townsend-Lyon

5 thoughts on ““JFK”….The Nation Remembers A President, But Was He An Addict?

  1. Pingback: Beauty in Images, Words, Recovery, and Relationships: Featured Followers | A Way With Words

  2. I was stationed in Germany, at the time of his assassination. We were on duty, and had not heard anything. I told one of my crew members to turn on the radio. Little did we know, that we were about to receive the most shocking news. We went into alert mode quickly. We were quite angry, as our immediate thought was that he had been killed by the communists. He was a good Commander-In Chief. Well respected. I still think that Ruby did not act alone.
    His health was questionable. He exacerbated his back problems during the second war, thus the need for strong meds. In spite of his short comings, I liked, and respected him.
    Good post. Brings back some good and bad memories. The good ones out weight the bad ones. Blessings.


    • Actually, my husband said the same thing to me about many people “Thought: Communists 1st. My father as well, I do believe was also in shock that day. I REALLY appreciate your comments, and sharing here with me and my readers. I know by the amount of shock, and Love for JFK, many well REPSECTED him as a man and a President.

      God Bless,
      Catherine 🙂


      • We were prepared for WW3. Everyone was concerned, but ready to defend the country, no matter what. My parents were on pins and needles, back in NY. Naturally, they were concerned about me. Glad we didn’t have to fight, even though we were mentally prepared for it. Blessings.


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