Max Jacobson (July 3, 1900 – December 1, 1979) was a German-born New York physician, nicknamed "Miracle Max" and "Dr. Feelgood", who administered amphetamines and other medications to several high-profile clients, including President John F. Kennedy.
A Jew, Jacobson fled Berlin in 1936, and set up an office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where he treated many famous individuals including Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Leonard Bernstein, Humphrey Bogart, Yul Brynner, Maria Callas, Truman Capote, Montgomery Clift, Rosemary Clooney, Maya Deren, Cecil B. DeMille, Marlene Dietrich, Eddie Fisher, Judy Garland, Alan Jay Lerner, Mickey Mantle, Liza Minnelli, Marilyn Monroe, Zero Mostel, Elvis Presley, Anthony Quinn, Paul Robeson, Nelson Rockefeller, David O. Selznick, Elizabeth Taylor, Billy Wilder and Tennessee Williams. Dubbed "Dr. Feelgood", Jacobson was known for his "miracle tissue regenerator" shots, which consisted of amphetamines, animal hormones, bone marrow, enzymes, human placenta, painkillers, steroids, and multivitamins.
John F. Kennedy first visited Jacobson in September 1960, shortly before the 1960 presidential election debates. Jacobson was part of the Presidential entourage at the Vienna summit in 1961, where he administered injections to combat severe back pain. Some of the potential side effects included hyperactivity, impaired judgment, nervousness, and wild mood swings. Kennedy, however, was untroubled by FDA reports on the contents of Jacobson’s injections and proclaimed: "I don’t care if it’s horse piss. It works." Jacobson was used for the most severe bouts of back pain. By May 1962, Jacobson had visited the White House to treat the President thirty-four times., although such treatments were stopped by President Kennedy's White House physicians who realized the inappropriate use of steroids and amphetamines administered by Jacobson. It was later observed that President Kennedy's leadership, (e.g. the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis and other events during 1963), improved greatly once the treatments of Jacobson had been discontinued and been replaced by a medically appropriate regimen. Dr. Ghaemi, who studied Kennedy's medical records, concluded there was a "correlation; it is not causation; but it may not be coincidence either".
By the late 1960s, Jacobson's behavior became increasingly erratic as his own amphetamine usage increased. He began working 24-hour days and was seeing up to 30 patients per day. In 1969, one of Jacobson's clients, former Presidential photographer Mark Shaw, died at the age of 47. An autopsy showed that Shaw had died of "acute and chronic intravenous amphetamine poisoning." Under questioning Jacobson's staff admitted to buying large quantities of amphetamines to give many high level doses. The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs seized Jacobson's supply, and his medical license was revoked on April 25, 1975, by the New York State Board of Regents.
Jacobson attempted to regain his license in 1979 but was denied. A state spokesmen stated that the then 79-year-old Jacobson didn't seem ready to enter into the "mainstream of practice" again. Jacobson died in December that year.