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FBI: Late Chief Justice Suffered Drug Withdrawal

U.S. government records reveal that late Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist took a powerful sedative for nearly 10 years and became briefly delusional when he stopped taking the drug.

FBI records show that Rehnquist was prescribed the sleep aid Placidyl after back surgery in 1971, the year before he began serving on the Supreme Court. He was weaned from the drug a decade later, before he was appointed chief justice.

The documents recount that Rehnquist was put in the hospital for his withdrawal, and that the effects of stopping the drug led Rehnquist to believe he was the target of a CIA plot. The papers also note he tried to escape from the hospital while still in his pajamas.

The papers refer to the drug's tendency to cause slurred speech and blurred vision. But the documents give no indication that Rehnquist's dependency on the drug affected any decisions he made while serving on the nation's highest court.

The records were released in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Rehnquist died in 2005.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.