Friday, May 29, 2009

The good old days of Medicine

Marijuana, Cocaine, Morphine, Heroin, Amphetamine and even LSD were once medically accepted and offered as miracle cures up until this past century. These same substances that are now illegal and stigmatized will send anyone in the possession of them to prison. During this period numerous pharmaceutical manufacturers proudly proclaimed that their products contained these and other drugs. Below are a some interesting examples of these medicines.

Cocaine based Medicine
Cocaine was sold over-the-counter until 1914. It was widely used in tonics, toothache cures, patent medicines, and chocolate cocaine tablets. Prospective buyers were advised (in the words of the pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis) that cocaine "could make the coward brave, the silent eloquent, and render the sufferer insensitive to pain".

Cocaine toothache drops (circa 1885) were popular for children.
Not only would the medicine numb the pain, but it could also put the user in a "better" mood.

Metcalf's Coca Wine was one of a large number of cocaine-containing wines available on the market. All claimed medicinal effects, although they were undoubtedly consumed for their "recreational" value as well.

Vin Mariani (Circa 1865) was the leading Coca Wine of its time. Pope Leo XIII reportedly carried a hipflask of Vin Mariani with him.
His Holiness even awarded a Vatican gold medal to its creator, Angelo Mariani.

This coca wine was made by the Maltine Manufacturing Company (New York). The dosage indicated on the back of the bottle reads: "A wine glass full with, or immediately after, meals. Children in proportion."

Cocaine-containing throat lozenges (circa 1900) were "indispensable for singers, teachers, and orators." In addition to quieting a sore throat, these lozenges undoubtedly provided the "pick-me-up" to keep these professionals performing at their peak.

A paperweight advertisement for C.F. Boehringer & Soehne (Mannheim, Germany), "largest makers in the world of quinine and cocaine." This chemical manufacturer was proud of its leading position in the world's cocaine market.

Opiate based Medicine
formulations containing Opiates were probably even more widely employed than those containing cocaine. Laudanum had been in use for over two centuries, and the isolation of morphine in the early 19th century and the later development of heroin were lauded as even more effective remedies.

Modern authors usually suggest that widespread opium use was a major health problem during the 19th century. However, the use of opiates must be kept in proper perspective with other contemporary health problems. Mortality from cholera, malaria, and dysentery was very high, and opiates provided some relief from these illnesses (Opiates remain the most effective treatment for dysentery.). Some authors have suggested that the easy availability of opiate-based medicines saved more lives than it took. As the deleterious effects of chronic opiate use became increasingly recognized during the late 19th century, several factors helped ease the need for opiates: the improvements in sanitation diminished cholera and dysentery, the drainage of swamp lands decreased malaria, and the introduction of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin; 1899) provided an alternative medicine for moderate pain relief.

This bottle of Stickney and Poor's paregoric (mixture of opium and alcohol) was distributed much like the spices for which the company is better known. Doses for infants, children, and adults are given on the bottle. At 46% alcohol, this product is 92 proof which is pretty potent in itself.

Bayer Heroin bottle. Up until 1910 heroin was marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough medicine for children! Heroin became it illegal to manufacture in 1924.

This ad is for Glyco-Heroin manufactured by Martin H. Smith Company (New York). Heroin was widely used not only as an analgesic but also as a remedy for asthma, coughs, and pneumonia. Mixing heroin with glycerin (and often adding sugar or spices) made the bitter-tasting opiate more palatable for oral consumption.

This National Vaporizer Vapor-OL (opium) Treatment no. 6 for asthma may have provided a unique method of essentially "smoking" opium. The volatile liquid was placed in a pan that was heated by a small kerosene lamp (see below). Other substances were also used in these early (c. 1890) vaporizers, but this mixture probably ensured plenty of visitors for the spasmodically affected.

Tolu & Dovers cough syrup contained Cannabis and Opium as major constituents and was manufactured by Columbus Pharmacal Co.

Above is a photo of the original Medical Marijuana, which is finally being re-accepted as part of Western Medicines Pharmacopeia. This photo shows a bottle of Cannabis Indica Fluid Extract, manufactured by American Druggists Syndicate.

Medical LSD

Sandoz Delysid (LSD 25) D-lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate
Sugar-coated tablets containing 0.025 mg. (25 ug.)
Ampoules of 1 ml. containing 0.1 mg. for oral administration.
The solution may also be injected s.c. or i.v. The effect is identical with that of oral administration but sets in more rapidly.


a) Analytical psychotherapy, to elicit release of repressed material and provide mental relaxation, par- ticularly in anxiety states and obsessional neuroses. The initial dose is 25 ug. (1/4 of an ampoule or 1 tablet). This dose is increased at each treatment by 25 ug. until the optimum dose (usually between 50 and 200 ug.) is found. The individual treatments are best given at intervals of one week.

b) Experimental studies on the nature of psychoses: By taking Delysid himself, the psychiatrist is able to gain an insight in the world of ideas and sensations of mental patients. Delysid can also be used to induce model psychoses of short duration in normal subjects, thus facilitating studies on the pathogenesis of mental disease.

Amphetamine Containing Products
Amphetamine was synthesized too late to have the widespread applications enjoyed decades earlier by cocaine and the opiates. It was, however, marketed in products commonly used to relieve head congestion and asthma. Amphetamine continued to be employed as a popular prescription diet-aid into the 1970s.

Benzedrine (racemic amphetamine) inhalers were available over-the-counter until the early 1950s. Some airlines even gave them out to passengers to minimize discomfort when the plane was landing and taking off. The Smith, Kline, and French advertisement proudly proclaims that over 10 million Benzedrine inhalers had been shipped by 1938, only 7 years after the product's introduction. This may have even outpaced McDonald's hamburger sales during their early expansion (Remember the "over x million hamburgers sold" signs?).

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