Richard Ready had been a drinker most of his life, but by the time he became chief resident of neurosurgery at a prominent Chicago-area hospital, it was drugs, not alcohol, that kept him going,
Ready took stimulants to keep alert through his daily rounds. He took heavy pain relievers to numb his emotions after his mother's death. He wrote himself a prescription for the sedative Tranxene to calm his nerves before an important seminar.
In the second year of his residency, Ready became a regular user of a type of Tylenol mixed with codeine. He'd steal them by the dozens and carry them inside a little plastic baggy in the pocket of his lab coat. His tolerance was so high he was taking up to 70 pills a day to stave off withdrawal.