If you have watched old Hollywood silent films that showcased 19th century era of United States, it won’t take long to notice people openly consuming drugs that are banned today. However, with the advent of 20th century, several studies pointed out the ill-effects of these drugs, that eventually led to their ban.
Did You Know?
According to a United Nations report, in 2003, illegal drug trade amounted to more than 300 billion dollars.
Eat it. Breathe it. Or snort it. But you can’t escape it. Well, such was the situation in the 1800s and early 1900s in United States as far as drug usage was concerned. Although these drugs are outlawed today due to their psychotic effects, during that time, they were unregulated and openly available at pharmacies.
Back then, alcohol-based products containing these addictive drugs were sold without any restriction. Drinks laced with these drugs were in great demand as they induced a euphoric effect to the drinker. Consumption of these drugs in different forms soon increased, which led to their abuse. The United States Legislature eventually passed different anti-drug laws to initiate a ban on these drugs.
In the early 1800s, dried juice derived from the opium poppy was readily available in the United States. It was imported from China, who was the largest production of opium at that time. Back then, doctors prescribed opium to alleviate pain associated with menstrual cramps. However, misuse of the drug began when opium dens slowly started mushrooming in the United States, where it was extensively smoked.
The 1850s witnessed a sharp rise in the number of opium users, as opium dens flourished in different parts of the United States.
In order to crack the whip on these opium smoking establishments, the first US anti-drug law was passed in San Francisco on November 15, 1875. This ordinance led to the close down of Chinese opium dens. Carrying and smoking of opium was also prohibited. In 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed that enforced a nationwide ban on opium. Its usage has now been severely restricted for medicinal purposes only.
Although heroin was first synthesized in 1874, it was in 1897 that Bayer Pharmaceuticals (Germany) first started making and selling the drug for commercial purposes. The United States decided to import heroin in an attempt to curb the menace of morphine addiction. Morphine, a drug obtained from opium, was used by the medical fraternity to get rid of debilitating pain. Doctors considered morphine an effective pain reliever, and it was prescribed to people suffering from serious physical injuries.
In the mid 1850s, morphine was tagged as the first line of treatment for severe pain, and was found to be beneficial to treat war-related injuries. However, its addictive properties soon became evident as a large number of military personnel became hooked to morphine. In order to stop morphine abuse, heroin was brought to the United States and was strongly marketed as a safe, non-addictive option to reduce severe pain.
In the beginning of 20th century, pharmaceutical companies soon started manufacturing heroin in the United States. However, its usage was no longer restricted to treating pain. It was promoted as a treatment for common cold, cough, tuberculosis, and even depression. However, heroin turned out to be devastatingly addictive. When usage of heroin was discontinued suddenly, it triggered severe opiate withdrawal symptoms. Under the Narcotics Act of 1914, the sale of heroin was curtained sharply and eventually banned in 1924.
In the United States, being caught with unlawful possession of marijuana for the first time is considered an offense that carries a jail term of up to 1 year. However, in the 19th century, marijuana was available over-the-counter in general stores. In fact, before the Civil War, the United States was a major producer of marijuana.
Medicines containing marijuana were prevalent until the end of the 20th century, and their sale was unrestricted. Between 1900 and 1930, the recreational use of marijuana increased dramatically thanks to its psychoactive effects. In the 1930s, research revealed increased violence and crime associated with the usage of marijuana. With studies linking unacceptable behavior to marijuana abuse, around 29 states strictly banned marijuana. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted that outlawed possession of this drug. From 1951 – 1956 federal law was enforced that sentenced offenders to jail. The use of marijuana in the United States is now severely restricted for medicinal purposes only.
Cocaine was discovered when it was first isolated from the coca leaf in 1855. However, it was only in the early 1880s that the medical fraternity took notice of this drug, thanks to its psychic effects. Dr. Sigmund Freud, a psychotherapist, was probably the first person from the medical world to recommend cocaine for the treatment of depression.
In 1884, Dr. Freud published research that discussed the impact of cocaine on humans. It was described as a stimulant that provided long-lasting euphoria. Apart from heightened alertness, it also increased the ability to work for longer hours without experiencing any fatigue. It was also found to be an effective pain killer that eventually made it popular as a local anesthetic.
In 1886, Coca Cola was launched, that substantially contained cocaine. It was strongly promoted as an energy boosting drink, a mood enhancer that could give a feeling of elation. In the early 1900s, different brands of alcoholic drinks containing cocaine and opium flooded the American market. They instantly became popular due to the presence of cocaine that delivered exhilaration to the consumer. Around 1905, cocaine snorting became a rage in the United States. However, the addictive nature of cocaine soon started becoming evident with reports of drug abuse among the young and elderly alike. Studies also linked socially problematic behavior to the usage of cocaine. The Journal of the American Medical Association also reported the rising addiction of cocaine sniffing among African immigrants. The emerging negative effects of cocaine forced Coca Cola to change its recipe. In 1912, around 5000 people died from cocaine and opium abuse. Finally, in 1914 the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was enacted that criminalized unlawful possession of cocaine in the United States.
In 1919, A. Ogata, a Japanese scientist, created methamphetamine. The drug was basically a nervous system stimulant that increased alertness, infused a feeling of euphoria, and boosted energy. Due to its stimulating effect, methamphetamine was given to Japanese, American, and German soldiers during World War II in to keep them alert, combat fatigue, and enhance their productivity in combat action. After the war, it was sold under the brand name ‘Methedrine’.
It soon became popular with people from all walks of life.
The 1960s saw the rise of methamphetamine users in the United States. People from all socioeconomic groups started using methamphetamine to stay awake, uplift their mood, and increase productivity. The drug was abused to get the ‘high’ feeling. Methamphetamine also acted as an appetite suppressant and was taken by women as a weight loss aid. In order to curb these addiction problems, the US Drug Abuse Regulation and Control Act was passed in 1970 that categorized methamphetamine a Schedule II drug. Today, its possession without a prescription is strictly prohibited. Although the FDA has given consent to use methamphetamine for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, it is rarely recommended.
LSD was first synthesized in Switzerland in 1938 by a chemist named Albert Hofmann. While analyzing the drug, his fingertips come in contact with the drug, which eventually got absorbed through the skin. The chemist experienced the hallucinogenic effects of the drug immediately. He described the experience as going into a dreamlike state with the eyes shut. Later, when he took it deliberately, the drug had a positive impact on his mood and physical energy.
In 1950, the first research paper, discussing the psychological effects of LSD, was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. From 1951 onward, the CIA secretly started giving prisoners, drug agents, and spy agents LSD, so that they could confess the truth. The other goal was to test whether the drug made the user forget his original identity.
The usage of LSD in the 1960s soon trickled down to psychiatrists that used LSD to improve psychotherapy. It was also used as a treatment for alcoholism. The formula of making LSD was soon made available to the general public. The easy availability of LSD, complemented by its well-known over-stimulating effects, caused a significant rise in the number of LSD abusers in the United States. With growing public health concerns over the usage of LSD, California became the first state to ban LSD in 1966. Eventually, in 1968, the US Senate passed the Staggers-Dodd Bill that outlawed the possession of LSD. Finally, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act was enforced in 1970, that deemed LSD a schedule I drug, meaning the substance lacked any medicinal value.
Although the drug was created in 1912 by Anton Köllisch, a German chemist, it was only in the 1970s that Ecstasy became popular for recreational purposes. It was largely ignored until 1950, when a great deal of research began to study the properties of Ecstasy. In 1953, animal studies were conducted to analyze the toxicity of ecstasy. The 1960s witnessed small-scale manufacturing of the drug fit for human consumption.
In 1977, the popularity of Ecstasy as a recreational drug increased drastically. Its use became prevalent in night dance parties. It was easily available in nightclubs, and ecstasy-driven parties also became popular. In order to stop the widespread abuse of Ecstasy, the drug was banned in 1985, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration classified it as a Schedule I drug, indicating that the drug had no medicinal properties. Today, anyone in the possession of Ecstasy is liable for legal penaltie
Referred to as ‘magic’ mushrooms as they display hallucinatory properties, Psilocybin mushrooms, that originated in Asia and America, contain Psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance. It is naturally psychoactive, which means it can stimulate the central nervous system, and alter perception, mood, and behavior. To put it simply, it tends to mimic the effects of LSD. In 1956, Albert Hofmann successfully extracted Psilocybin from these mushrooms at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, Switzerland.
In 1960, the pharmaceutical company got permission to synthesize Psilocybin pills. To study the effects of Psilocybin pills, 10 students from Boston university were given a pill that had 30 mg of Psilocybin. The study was conducted in 1962 under the guidance of Timothy Leary, an American psychologist. The results of the study proved that Psilocybin isolated from magic mushrooms produced psychoactive effects.
Timothy also believed that Psilocybin could be helpful to control violent behavior in criminals. However, various studies proved these assumptions wrong. The popularity of Psilocybin mushrooms and pills increased dramatically, especially at clubs, parties, and even on college campuses for getting ‘high’. The abuse of the drug was noticed among teenagers, young adults, and recreational drugs addicts. Finally, the Staggers-Dodd Bill was passed in 1963 that enforced a ban on Psilocybin containing substances including mushrooms. The Drug Abuse Act of 1970 classified Psilocybin a Schedule I drug.
Peyote is derived from a small spineless cactus that originated in United States. Its usage dates back to 1000 BC when Native Americans used it for religious ceremonies. Peyote contains mescaline that has a hallucinogenic effect on humans. Mescaline was first extracted from peyote in 1897 by Dr. Arthur Heffter, a German chemist. However, it was only in 1927 that a great deal of research was done to investigate the effects of mescaline.
The study clearly revealed the psychoactive properties of the substance. Fearing that peyote containing mescaline might be abused for its psychoactive effect, the US government strictly prohibited peyote in 1930 in over 12 states. Its usage was also outlawed in religious rituals carried out by Native Americans.
However, in 1960, the Arizona court granted Native Americans permission to use peyote for ritual purposes only. In 1967, a federal ban on peyote was imposed to prevent illegal usage of the drug. Currently over 50 states in the United States have criminalized the possession of Peyote. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 identifies mescaline as a hallucinogen and classifies it a Schedule I drug.
Apart from these drugs, GHB has also been deemed illegal in 1990 due to its abuse for recreational purposes. On the whole, one can definitely say that the US Authorities are doing a commendable job by enforcing laws and tweaking them from time to time, to ensure that offenders do not go scot free, and the country remains largely free from this drug menace.