Views & Reviews REVIEW OF THE WEEK

Don't blame the drugs

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39139.525069.59 (Published 01 March 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:480
  1. Allen Shaughnessy, director of curriculum development, Tufts University family medicine residency at Cambridge Health Alliance, MA, USA
  1. Allen.Shaughnessy{at}Tufts.edu

    From the original Coca-Cola to morphine injected by doctors, psychoactive drugs haven't always been viewed as an evil to society. A new book laments the “cult” of fear and loathing that now controls our unhealthy relationship with these drugs.

    A century ago alcohol was the prevailing demon substance. Prohibitions on drug use were few, jails were not full of drug users, and drugs derived from coca, cannabis, and poppy were in wide use by the public. Reputable doctors, scientists, and poets, along with less well known people, used these drugs in ways similar to use of caffeine and nicotine today, such as the physician who continuously used morphine for 62 years. For the most part people used these drugs without them affecting their life or functioning, their use ebbing and flowing among periods of non-use.

    Popular patent medicines of the time were likely to contain one or more of these psychoactive drugs. The manufacturer Parke-Davis had tincture of cannabis and 15 coca related products. The Bayer Company marketed a new product, diacetyl morphine, described as the “heroine” to treat both morphine addiction and cough and sold under the brand name “Heroin.” Coca-Cola originally contained cocaine and was a result of the temperance movement in the United States: with the growing threat to alcohol, the …

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