Ceremonial Chemistry

When I was writing The Cartoon Guide to Recreational Drugs I scoured the local libraries and bookstores looking for useful and interesting historical works. Ceremonial Chemistry is one of my sources.

The parts I generally took notes from were either about the drugs themselves or the prohibition of drugs. You’ll find the information garnered from these books throughout the Prohibition Politics section of this site. It will also have informed some of my own postings stored in the older Prohibition Politics archive.

If you find this information useful, you will want to search out the books themselves to read the text in context. All of the books here are at least moderately interesting.


Thomas Szasz subtitled this “The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts, and Pushers”. It’s a brilliant piece of work drawing on history from as far back as the witch trials and persecution of Jews. His thesis is that mankind requires scapegoats on a ritual scale. While hardly a ground-breaking idea, the depth of his examination is.

p. xii [Nov. 1984]

“Supposedly, the great moral contest of our age is the struggle between communism and capitalism. Actually, that struggle conceals an even greater contest—a struggle waged by politicians and their intellectual lackeys, both East and West, against free will and personal responsibility. Whether couched in the imagery of historical or biological determinism, whether seen as Marxist or behavioral “science,” the real message is the same: the individual is not responsible for his behavior; he is a victim who must be saved (from capitalism or “drugs”) by a protective, therapeutic state.”

p. xiii

“The ideal witch was initially a weird woman, the ideal madman a murderous maniac, and the ideal addict a deranged dope fiend; but once these categories became accepted as not only real but immensely important, the ranks from which such deviants could be recruited grew rapidly. Eventually anyone—save perhaps the most successful deviant-mongers and their most powerful masters—could be “discovered” to be a witch, a madman, or a drug abuser; and witchcraft, insanity, and drug abuse were then declared to be “plagues” of “epidemic proportions” from whose “infection” no one was immune.”

p. 3

“It is therefore just as absurd to search for non-addictive drugs that produce euphoria as it would be to search for non-flammable liquids that are easy to ignite.”

p. 7

“Kraepelin’s textbook of mental diseases 1st edition (1883) has neither intoxication nor addiction; 2nd edition (1887) has “chronic intoxications,” including “alcoholism” and “morphinism.” 4th edition (1891) adds “cocainism.” 6th edition (1899) includes “acute” intoxication as well as “chronic.”

p. 11

“If, nevertheless, textbooks of pharmacology legitimately contain a chapter on drug abuse and drug addiction, then, by the same token, textbooks of gynecology and urology should contain a chapter on prostitution; textbooks of physiology, a chapter on perversion; textbooks of genetics, a chapter on the racial inferiority of Jews and Negroes; textbooks of mathematics, a chapter on gambling syndicates; and, of course, textbooks of astronomy, a chapter on sun worship.”

p. 41

“these are the unholy communions of our age.”

p. 52-53

“People who make liquor are businessmen, not the “members of an international ring of alcohol refiners”; people who sell liquor are retail merchants, not “pushers”; and people who buy liquor are citizens, not “dope fiends.” The same goes for tobacco, coffee, and tea.”

p. 73

“It is only fitting that as formerly the most faithful Christians favored the most un-Christian ferocity against witches, so now the most faithful capitalists recommend the most anti-capitalist ferocity against the entrepreneurs who trade in “dangerous drugs.””

p. 74

“What the people did not realize then was that they were the witches and the bewitched, and what they do not realize now is that they are the pushers and the addicts. With monotonous regularity, the people foolishly fear the harmless scapegoats, and blindly trust the dangerous scapegoaters.”

p. 75-76

“Chinese began to arrive in the United States in large numbers after 1850. Soon they outperformed and outproduced all the other races and nationalities, in the laundries and on the farms, in the mines and on the railroad. How did they do it? I cannot answer this question any better than anyone else can. I can only point to two facts—one obvious, the other not—that bear on the explanation: tradition and opium. The Chinese have always been regarded as intelligent, industrious, and well-disciplined. They also used opium, mainly by smoking it, much as Americans smoked tobacco. If the opium did not help them work better—although most of those who smoked it claimed that it did—it evidently did not hinder them!”

p. 76

“From the beginning, the anti-Chinese movement in America was led by the labor unions, first by those on the west coast, then by the national unions…. In the course of this war against an exceptionally hard-working and law-abiding people, their characteristic habit—smoking opium—became the leading symbol of their “dangerousness.””

p. 77

“Americans thus defamed not only the Chinese but opium as well. Significantly, while no educated person still believes the ugly nonsense heaped on the Chinese for decades by leading American authorities, most educated persons still believe the ugly nonsense heaped on opium.”

p. 79

“According to Hill, “Gompers [Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor 1886-1924, except for one year] conjures up a terrible picture of how the Chinese entice little white boys and girls into becoming ‘opium fiends.’ Condemned to spend their days in the back of laundry rooms, these tiny lost souls would yield up their virgin bodies to their maniacal yellow captors. ‘What other crimes were committed in those dark fetid places,’ Gompers writes, ‘when these little innocent victims of the Chinamen’s wiles were under the influence of the drug, are almost too horrible to imagine…. There are hundreds, aye, thousands, of our American girls and boys who have acquired this deathly habit and are doomed, hopelessly doomed, beyond the shadow of redemption.’”” —Herbert Hill, Anti-Oriental Agitation, Society, 10:43-54, 1973; p. 51

p. 80

In 1887, Congress passed a law prohibiting importation of opium by the Chinese, but not Americans. In 1890, a law was passed restricting opium manufacture to American citizens. In 1909, importation of smoking opium prohibited.

p. 125-126

“…an article published in 1920 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Its author, Thomas S. Blair—a physician and the chief of the Bureau of Drug Control of the Pennsylvania Department of Health—gave his essay the wonderfully revealing title “Habit Indulgence in Certain Cactaceous Plants among the Indians.” The Indians, of course, had no Journal of the Indian Peyote Association in which they could have published an article on “Habit Indulgence in the Fermented Juice of Certain Grapes among the Americans.” Right from the start, then, the Indians were peyote addicts—while the Americans laughed all the way to the speakeasies. And so it has been ever since, except that today, whites, blacks, and Puerto Ricans—that is, all of us—are treated like the Indians were fifty years ago;”

p. 126

“Blair asserts… that the “government has investigated the use of peyote and found its evil effects to parallel the Oriental abuse of cannabis. The addict becomes indolent, immoral, and worthless.” We should recall that Blair wrote this article… while the American people, under Prohibition, drank more liquor than ever before;” (quote from Journal of the American Medical Association, 76:1033-1034, April 9, 1921

““Missionary workers in the Southwest,” Blair writes, “are becoming seriously concerned over the spreading use of mescal buttons, whether called peyote or by any other name.”… Blair explains that “certain Sons of Belial, taking advantage of the tendency of the Indian to religious ceremonial, have been industriously spreading the word among the tribes that partaking of the peyote enables the addict [sic] to communicate with the Great Spirit. It is true that certain Mexican tribes have long had a superstitious reverence for mescal buttons and have used them on occasion in religious ceremonials; and this old superstition gave the commercial dope vendor a great opportunity among the Indians in the United States. This has been carried so far that the ‘Peyote Church’ has actually been incorporated, the members being devotees, who gather for an orgy of frenzy, far worse than the cocaine parties held among the negroes.””—ibid.

A timeline

From: steiny@hpcupt1

This is a history of drug use/prohibition based on the Appendix of Ceremonial Chemistry by Thomas Szasz. The book is published by "Doubleday/Anchor" Garden City, New York, 1975. I included his references. I have added several items of interest and I have deleted some things I did not feel were relevant (Szasz documents the parallel course of religious history). All unattributed items (no footnote) are from the book.

There are some real jewels in this collection. The entry for 1949 is especially profound.

Note how many times governments have banned various drugs. At one time tobacco was illegal in more than a dozen states! Fat lot of good it did.

I saw Szasz speak not too long ago, he is a wonderful person, absolutely brilliant and very charming. The book is now in its second edition.

c. 5000 B.C.The Sumerians use opium, suggested by the fact that they have an ideogram for it which has been translated as HUL, meaning "joy" or "rejoicing." [Alfred R. Lindesmith, Addiction and Opiates. p. 207]
c. 3500 B.C.Earliest historical record of the production of alcohol: the description of a brewery in an Egyptian papyrus. [Joel Fort, The Pleasure Seekers, p. 14]
c. 3000 B.C. Approximate date of the supposed origin of the use of tea in China.
c. 2500 B.C.Earliest historical evidence of the eating of poppy seeds among the Lake Dwellers on Switzerland. [Ashley Montague, The long search for euphoria, Reflections, 1:62-69 (May-June), 1966; p. 66]
c. 2000 B.C.Earliest record of prohibitionist teaching, by an Egyptian priest, who writes to his pupil: "I, thy superior, forbid thee to go to the taverns. Thou art degraded like beasts." [W.F. Crafts, et al., Intoxicating Drinks and Drugs, p. 5]
c. 350 B.C.Proverbs, 31:6-7: "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more."
c. 300 B.C.Theophrastus (371-287 B.C.), Greek naturalist and philosopher, records what has remained as the earliest undisputed reference to the use of poppy juice.
c. 250 B.C.Psalms, 104:14-15: "Thou dost cause grass to grow for the cattle and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart of man.
350 A.D.Earliest mention of tea, in a Chinese dictionary.
4th centurySt. John Chrysostom (345-407), Bishop of Constantinople: "I hear man cry, ’Would there be no wine! O folly! O madness!’ Is it wine that causes this abuse? No, for if you say, ’Would there were no light!’ because of the informers, and would there were no women because of adultery." [Quoted in Berton Roueche, The Neutral Spirit, pp. 150-151]
c. 450Babylonian Talmud: "Wine is at the head of all medicines; where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary." [Quoted in Burton Stevenson (Ed.), The Macmillan Book of Proverbs, p. 21]
c. 1000Opium is widely used in China and the far East. [Alfred A. Lindesmith, The Addict and the Law, p. 194]
1493The use of tobacco is introduced into Europe by Columbus and his crew returning from America.
c. 1500According to J.D. Rolleston, a British medical historian, a medieval Russian cure for drunkenness consisted in "taking a piece of pork, putting it secretly in a Jew’s bed for nine days, and then giving it to the drunkard in a pulverized form, who will turn away from drinking as a Jew would from pork." [Quoted in Roueche, op. cit. p. 144]
c. 1525Paracelsus (1490-1541) introduces laudanum, or tincture of opium, into the practice of medicine.
1600Shakespeare: "Falstaff… If I had a thousand sons the / first human principle I would teach them should / be, to foreswear thin portion and to addict themselves to sack." ("Sack" is an obsolete term for "sweet wine" like sherry). [William Shakespeare, Second Part of King Henry the Forth, Act IV, Scene III, lines 133-136]
17th centuryThe prince of the petty state of Waldeck pays ten thalers to anyone who denounces a coffee drinker. [Griffith Edwards, Psychoactive substances, The Listener, March 23, 1972, pp. 360-363; p.361]
17th centuryIn Russia, Czar Michael Federovitch executes anyone on whom tobacco is found. "Czar Alexei Mikhailovitch rules that anyone caught with tobacco should be tortured until he gave up the name of the supplier." [Ibid.]
1613John Rolf, the husband of the Indian princess Pocahontas, sends the first shipment of Virginia tobacco from Jamestown to England.
c. 1650The use of tobacco is prohibited in Bavaria, Saxony, and in Zurich, but the prohibitions are ineffective. Sultan Murad IV of the Ottoman Empire decrees the death penalty for smoking tobacco: "Wherever there Sultan went on his travels or on a military expedition his halting-places were always distinguished by a terrible rise in executions. Even on the battlefield he was fond of surprising men in the act of smoking, when he would punish them by beheading, hanging, quartering or crushing their hands and feed… Nevertheless, in spite of all the horrors and persecution… the passion for smoking still persisted." [Edward M. Brecher et al., Licit and Illicit Drugs, p. 212]
1680Thomas Syndenham (1625-80): "Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty God to give to man to relieve his sufferings, none is so universal and efficacious as opium." [Quoted in Louis Goodman and Alfred Gilman, The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, First Edition (1941), p. 186]
1690The "Act for the Encouraging of the Distillation of Brandy and Spirits from Corn" is enacted in England. [Roueche, op. cit. p. 27]
1691In Luneberg, Germany, the penalty for smoking (tobacco) is death.
1717Liquor licenses in Middlesex (England) are granted only to those who "would take oaths of allegiance and of belief in the King’s supremacy over the Church" [G.E.G. Catlin, Liquor Control, p. 14]
1736The Gin Act (England) is enacted with the avowed object of making spirits "come so dear to the consumer that the poor will not be able to launch into excessive use of them." This effort results in general lawbreaking and fails to halt the steady rise in the consumption of even legally produced and sold liquor. [Ibid., p. 15]
1745The magistrates of one London division demanded that "publicans and wine-merchants should swear that they anathematized the doctrine of Transubstantiation." [Ibid., p. 14]
1762Thomas Dover, and English physician, introduces his prescription for a diaphoretic powder," which he recommends mainly for the treatment of gout. Soon named "Dover’s powder," this compound becomes the most widely used opium preparation during the next 150 years.
1785Benjamin Rush publishes his Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits on the Human Body and Mind; in it, he calls the intemperate use of distilled spirits a "disease," and estimates the annual rate of death due to alcoholism in the United States as "not less than 4000 people" in a population then of less than 6 million. [Quoted in S. S. Rosenberg (Ed.), Alcohol and Health, p. 26]
1789The first American temperance society is formed in Litchfield, Connecticut. [Crafts et. al., op. cit., p. 9]
1790Benjamin Rush persuades his associates at the Philadelphia College of Physicians to send an appeal to Congress to "impose such heavy duties upon all distilled spirits as shall be effective to restrain their intemperate use in the country." [Quoted in ibid.]
1792The first prohibitory laws against opium in China are promulgated. The punishment decreed for keepers of opium shops is strangulation.
1792The Whisky Rebellion, a protest by farmers in western Pennsylvania against a federal tax on liquor, breaks out and is put down by overwhelming force sent to the area by George Washington. Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes "Kubla Khan" while under the influence of opium.
1800Napoleon’s army, returning from Egypt, introduces cannabis (hashish, marijuana) into France. Avante-garde artists and writers in Paris develop their own cannabis ritual, leading, in 1844, to the establishment of Le Club de Haschischins. [William A. Emboden, Jr., Ritual Use of Cannabis Sativa L.: A historical-ethnographic survey, in Peter T. Furst (Ed.), Flesh of the Gods, pp. 214-236; pp. 227-228]
1801On Jefferson’s recommendation, the federal duty on liquor was abolished. [Catlin, op. cit., p. 113]
1804Thomas Trotter, an Edinburgh physician, publishes An Essay, Medical, Philosophical, and Chemical on Drunkenness and Its Effects on the Human Body: "In medical language, I consider drunkenness, strictly speaking, to be a disease, produced by a remote cause, and giving birth to actions and movements in the living body that disorder the functions of health… The habit of drunkenness is a disease of the mind." [Quoted in Roueche, op. cit. pp. 87-88]
1805Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Serturner, a German chemist, isolates and describes morphine.
1822Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater is published. He notes that the opium habit, like any other habit, must be learned: "Making allowance for constitutional differences, I should say that in less that 120 days no habit of opium-eating could be formed strong enough to call for any extraordinary self-conquest in renouncing it, even suddenly renouncing it. On Saturday you are an opium eater, on Sunday no longer such." [Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1822), p. 143]
1826The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance is founded in Boston. By 1833, there are 6,000 local Temperance societies, with more than one million members.
1839-42The first Opium War. The British force upon China the trade in opium, a trade the Chinese had declared illegal.. [Montague, op. cit. p. 67]
1840Benjamin Parsons, and English clergyman, declares: "… alcohol stands preeminent as a destroyer… I never knew a person become insane who was not in the habit of taking a portion of alcohol every day." Parsons lists forty-two distinct diseases caused by alcohol, among them inflammation of the brain, scrofula, mania, dropsy, nephritis, and gout. [Quoted in Roueche, op. cit. pp. 87-88]
1841Dr. Jacques Joseph Moreau uses hashish in treatment of mental patients at the Bicêtre.
1842Abraham Lincoln: "In my judgement, such of us as have never fallen victims, have been spared more from the absence of apatite, than from any mental or moral superiority over those who have. Indeed, I believe, if we take habitual drunkards as a class, their heads and their hearts will bear an advantageous comparison with those of any other class." [Abraham Lincoln, Temperance address, in Roy P. Basler (Ed.), The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. 1, p. 258]
1844Cocaine is isolated in its pure form.
1845A law prohibiting the public sale of liquor is enacted in New York State. It is repealed in 1847.
1847The American Medical Association is founded.
1852Susan B. Anthony establishes the Women’s State Temperance Society of New York, the first such society formed by and for women. Many of the early feminists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Abby Kelly, are also ardent prohibitionists. [Andrew Sinclair, Era of Excess, p. 92]
1852The American Pharmaceutical Association is founded. The Association’s 1856 Constitution lists one of its goals as: "To as much as possible restrict the dispensing and sale of medicines to regularly educated druggists and apothecaries. [Quoted in David Musto, The American Disease, p. 258]
1856The Second Opium War. The British, with help from the French, extend their powers to distribute opium in China.
1862Internal Revenue Act enacted imposing a license fee of twenty dollars on retail liquor dealers, and a tax of one dollar a barrel on beer and twenty cents a gallon on spirits. [Sinclair, op. cit. p 152]
1864Adolf von Baeyer, a twenty-nine-year-old assistant of Friedrich August Kekule (the discoverer of the molecular structure of benzene) in Ghent, synthesizes barbituric acid, the first barbiturate.
1868Dr. George Wood, a professor of the theory and practice of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, president of the American Philosophical Society, and the author of a leading American test, Treatise on Therapeutics, describes the pharmacological effects of opium as follows: "A sensation of fullness is felt in the head, soon to be followed by a universal feeling of delicious ease and comfort, with an elevation and expansion of the whole moral and intellectual nature, which is, I think, the most characteristic of its effects… It seems to make the individual, for the time, a better and greater man… The hallucinations, the delirious imaginations of alcoholic intoxication, are, in general, quite wanting. Along with this emotional and intellectual elevation, there is also increased muscular energy; and the capacity to act, and to bear fatigue, is greatly augmented. [Quoted in Musto, op. cit. pp. 71-72]
1869The Prohibition Party is formed. Gerrit Smith, twice Abolitionist candidate for President, an associate of John Brown, and a crusading prohibitionist, declares: "Our involuntary slaves are set free, but our millions of voluntary slaves still clang their chains. The lot of the literal slave, of him whom others have enslaved, is indeed a hard one; nevertheless, it is a paradise compared with the lot of him who has enslaved himself to alcohol." [Quoted in Sinclair, op. cit. pp. 83-84]
1874The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is founded in Cleveland. In 1883, Frances Willard a leader of the W.C.T.U. forms the World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
1882The law in the United States, and the world, making "temperance education" a part of the required course in public schools is enacted. In 1886, Congress makes such education mandatory in the District of Columbia, and in territorial, military, and naval schools. By 1900, all the states have similar laws. [Crafts et. al., op. cit. p. 72]
1882The Personal Liberty League of the United States is founded to oppose the increasing momentum of movements for compulsory abstinence from alcohol. [Catlin, op. cit. p. 114]
1883Dr. Theodor Aschenbrandt, a German army physician, secures a supply of pure cocaine from the pharmaceutical firm of Merck, issues it to Bavarian soldiers during their maneuvers, and reports on the beneficial effects of the drug in increasing the soldiers’ ability to endure fatigue. [Brecher et. al. op. cit. p. 272]
1884Sigmund Freud treats his depression with cocaine, and reports feeling "exhilaration and lasting euphoria, which is in no way differs from the normal euphoria of the healthy person… You perceive an increase in self-control and possess more vitality and capacity for work… In other words, you are simply more normal, and it is soon hard to believe that you are under the influence of a drug." [Quoted in Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 1, p. 82]
1884Laws are enacted to make anti-alcohol teaching compulsory in public schools in New York State. The following year similar laws are passed in Pennsylvania, with other states soon following suit.
1885The Report of the Royal Commission on Opium concludes that opium is more like the Westerner’s liquor than a substance to be feared and abhorred. [Quoted in Musto, op. cit. p. 29]
1889The John Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, Maryland, is opened. One of its world-famous founders, Dr. William Stewart Halsted, is a morphine addict. He continues to use morphine in large doses throughout his phenomenally successful surgical career lasting until his death in 1922.
1894The Report of the Indian Hemp Drug Commission, running to over three thousand pages in seven volumes, is published. This inquiry, commissioned by the British government, concluded: "There is no evidence of any weight regarding the mental and moral injuries from the moderate use of these drugs… Moderation does not lead to excess in hemp any more than it does in alcohol. Regular, moderate use of ganja or bhang produces the same effects as moderate and regular doses of whiskey." The commission’s proposal to tax bhang is never put into effect, in part, perhaps, because one of the commissioners, an Indian, cautions that Moslem law and Hindu custom forbid "taxing anything that gives pleasure to the poor." [Quoted in Norman Taylor, The pleasant assassin: The story of marihuana, in David Solomon (Ed.) The Marijuana Papers, pp. 31-47, p. 41]
1894Norman Kerr, and English physician and president of the British Society for the study of Inebriety, declares: "Drunkenness has generally been regarded as … a sin a vice, or a crime… [But] there is now a consensus of intelligent opinion that habitual and periodic drunkenness is often either a symptom or sequel of disease … The victim can no more resist [alcohol] than an man with ague can resist shivering. [Quoted in Roueche, op. cit., pp. 107-108]
1898Diacetylmorphine (heroin) is synthesized in Germany. It is widely lauded as a "safe preparation free from addiction-forming properties." [Montague, op. cit. p. 68]
1900In an address to the Ecumenical Missionary Conference, Rev. Wilbur F. Crafts declares: "No Christian celebration of the completion of nineteen Christian centuries has yet been arranged. Could there be a fitter one than the general adoption, by separate and joint action of the great nations of the world, of the new policy of civilization, in which Great Britain is leading, the policy of prohibition for the native races, in the interest of commerce as well as conscience, since the liquor traffic among child races, even more manifestly than in civilized lands, injures all other trades by producing poverty, disease, and death. Our object, more profoundly viewed, is to create a more favorable environment for the child races that civilized nations are essaying to civilize and Christianize." [Quoted in Crafts, et. al., op. cit., p. 14]
1900James R. L. Daly, writing in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, declares: "It [heroin] possesses many advantages over morphine… It is not hypnotic; and there is no danger of acquiring the habit… ." [Quoted in Henry H. Lennard et. al. Methadone treatment (letters), Science, 179:1078-1079 (March 16), 1973; p. 1079]
1901The Senate adopts a resolution, introduced by Henry Cabot Lodge, to forbid the sale by American traders of opium and alcohol "to aboriginal tribes and uncivilized races." Theses provisions are later extended to include "uncivilized elements in America itself and in its territories, such as Indians, Alaskans, the inhabitants of Hawaii, railroad workers, and immigrants at ports of entry." [Sinclair, op. cit. p. 33]
1902The Committee on the Acquirement of the Drug Habit of the American Pharmaceutical Association declares: "If the Chinaman cannot get along without his ’dope,’ we can get along without him." [Quoted in ibid., p. 17]
1902George E. Petty, writing in the Alabama Medical Journal, observes: "Many articles have appeared in the medical literature during the last two years lauding this new agent … When we consider the fact that heroin is a morphine derivative … it does not seem reasonable that such a claim could be well founded. It is strange that such a claim should mislead anyone or that there should be found among the members of our profession those who would reiterate and accentuate it without first subjecting it to the most critical tests, but such is the fact." [Quoted in Lennard et. al., op. cit. p. 1079]
1903The composition of Coca-Cola is changed, caffeine replacing the cocaine it contained until this time. [Musto, op. cit. p. 43]
1904Charles Lyman, president of the International Reform Bureau, petitions the President of the United States "to induce Great Britain to release China from the enforced opium traffic… .We need not recall in detail that China prohibited the sale of opium except as a medicine, until the sale was forced upon that country by Great Britain in the opium war of 1840." [Quoted in Crafts et al., op. cit. p. 230]
1905Senator Henry W. Blair, in a letter to Rev. Wilbur F. Crafts, Superintendent of the International Reform Bureau: "The temperance movement must include all poisonous substances which create unnatural appetite, and international prohibition is the goal." [Quoted in ibid.]
1906The first Pure Food and Drug Act becomes law; until its enactment, it was possible to buy, in stores or by mail order medicines containing morphine, cocaine, or heroin, and without their being so labeled.
1906Squibb’s Materia Medica lists heroin as "a remedy of much value … is also used as a mild anodyne and as a substitute for morphine in combatting the morphine habit. [Quoted in Lennard et al., op. cit. p. 1079]
1909The United States prohibits the importation of smoking opium. [Lawrence Kolb, Drug Addiction, pp. 145-146]
1910Dr. Hamilton Wright, considered by some the father of U.S. anti-narcotics laws, reports that American contractors give cocaine to their Negro employees to get more work out of them. [Musto, op. cit. p. 180]
1912A writer in Century magazine proclaims: "The relation of tobacco, especially in the form of cigarettes, and alcohol and opium is a very close one. … Morphine is the legitimate consequence of alcohol, and alcohol is the legitimate consequence of tobacco. Cigarettes, drink, opium, is the logical and regular series." And a physician warns: "[There is] no energy more destructive of soul, mind, and body, or more subversive of good morals than the cigarette. The fight against the cigarette is a fight for civilization." [Sinclair, op. cit., p. 180]
1912The first international Opium Convention meets at the Hague, and recommends various measures for the international control of the trade in opium. Subsequent Opium Conventions are held in 1913 and 1914.
1912Phenobarbital is introduced into therapeutics under the trade name of Luminal.
1913The Sixteenth Amendment, creating the legal authority for federal income tax, is enacted. Between 1870 and 1915, the tax on liquor provides from one-half to two-thirds of the whole of the internal revenue of the United States, amounting, after the turn of the century, to about $200 million annually. The Sixteenth Amendment thus makes possible, just seven years later, the Eighteenth Amendment.
1914Dr. Edward H. Williams cites Dr. Christopher Kochs "Most of the attack upon white women of the South are the direct result of the cocaine crazed Negro brain." Dr. Williams concluded that "… Negro cocaine fiends are now a known Southern menace." [New York Times, Feb. 8, 1914]
1914The Harrison Narcotic Act is enacted, controlling the sale of opium and opium derivatives, and cocaine.
1914Congressman Richard P. Hobson of Alabama, urging a prohibition amendment to the Constitution, asserts: "Liquor will actually make a brute out of a Negro, causing him to commit unnatural crimes. The effect is the same on the white man, though the white man being further evolved it takes longer time to reduce him to the same level." Negro leaders join the crusade against alcohol. [Ibid., p. 29]
1916The Pharmacopoeia of the United States drops whiskey and brandy from its list of drugs. Four years later, American physicians begin prescribing these "drugs" in quantities never before prescribed by doctors.
1917The president of the American Medical Association endorses national prohibition. The House of Delegates of the Association passes a resolution stating: "Resolved, The American Medical Association opposes the use of alcohol as a beverage; and be it further Resolved, That the use of alcohol as a therapeutic agent should be discourages." By 1928, physicians make an estimated $40,000,000 annually by writing prescriptions for whiskey." [Ibid. p. 61]
1917The American Medical Association passes a resolution declaring that "sexual continence is compatible with health and is the best prevention of venereal infections," and one of the methods for controlling syphilis is by controlling alcohol. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels prohibits the practice of distributing contraceptives to sailors bound on shore leave, and Congress passes laws setting up "dry and decent zones" around military camps. "Many barkeepers are fined for selling liquor to men in uniform. Only at Coney Island could soldiers and sailors change into the grateful anonymity of bathing suits and drink without molestation from patriotic passers-by." [Ibid. pp. 117-118]
1918The Anti-Saloon League calls the "liquor traffic" "un-American," pro-German, crime-producing, food-wasting, youth-corrupting, home-wrecking, [and] treasonable." [Quoted in ibid. p. 121]
1919The Eighteenth (Prohibition) Amendment is added to the U.S. Constitution. It is repealed in 1933.
1920The U.S. Department of Agriculture publishes a pamphlet urging Americans to grow cannabis (marijuana) as a profitable undertaking. [David F. Musto, An historical perspective on legal and medical responses to substance abuse, Villanova Law Review, 18:808-817 (May), 1973; p. 816]
1920-1933The use of alcohol is prohibited in the United States. In 1932 alone, approximately 45,000 persons receive jail sentences for alcohol offenses. During the first eleven years of the Volstead Act, 17,971 persons are appointed to the Prohibition Bureau. 11,982 are terminated "without prejudice," and 1,604 are dismissed for bribery, extortion, theft, falsification of records, conspiracy, forgery, and perjury. [Fort, op. cit. p. 69]
1921The U.S. Treasury Department issues regulations outlining the treatment of addiction permitted under the Harrison Act. In Syracuse, New York, the narcotics clinic doctors report curing 90 per cent of their addicts. [Lindesmith, The Addict and the Law, p. 141]
1921Thomas S. Blair, M.D., chief of the Bureau of Drug Control of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, publishes a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association in which he characterizes the Indian peyote religion a "habit indulgence in certain cactaceous plants," calls the belief system "superstition" and those who sell peyote "dope vendors," and urges the passage of a bill in Congress that would prohibit the use of peyote among the Indian tribes of the Southwest. He concludes with this revealing plea for abolition: "The great difficulty in suppressing this habit among the Indians arises from the fact that the commercial interests involved in the peyote traffic are strongly entrenched, and they exploit the Indian… Added to this is the superstition of the Indian who believes in the Peyote Church. As soon as an effort is made to suppress peyote, the cry is raised that it is unconstitutional to do so and is an invasion of religious liberty. Suppose the Negros of the South had Cocaine Church!" [Thomas S. Blair, Habit indulgence in certain cactaceous plants among the Indians, Journal of the American Medical Association, 76:1033-1034 (April 9), 1921; p. 1034]
1921Cigarettes are illegal in fourteen states, and ninety-two anti-cigarette bills are pending in twenty-eight states. Young women are expelled from college for smoking cigarettes. [Brecher et al., op. cit. p. 492]
1921The Council of the American Medical Association refuses to confirm the Associations 1917 Resolution on alcohol. In the first six months after the enactment of the Volstead Act, more than 15,000 physicians and 57,000 druggests and drug manufacturers apply for licenses to prescribe and sell liquor. [Sinclair, op. cit., p. 492]
1921Alfred C. Prentice, M.D. a member of the Committee on Narcotic Drugs of the American Medical Association, declares "Public opinion regarding the vice of drug addiction has been deliberately and consistently corrupted through propaganda in both the medical and lay press… The shallow pretense that drug addiction is a ’disease’… has been asserted and urged in volumes of ’literature’ by self-styled ’specialists.’" [Alfred C Prentice, The Problem of the narcotic drug addict, Journal of the American Medical Association, 76:1551-1556; p. 1553]
1924The manufacture of heroin is prohibited in the United States.
1925Robert A. Schless: "I believe that most drug addiction today is due directly to the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act, which forbids the sale of narcotics without a physician’s prescription… Addicts who are broke act as agent provocateurs for the peddlers, being rewarded by gifts of heroin or credit for supplies. The Harrison Act made the drug peddler, and the drug peddler makes drug addicts." [Robert A. Schless, The drug addict, American Mercury, 4:196-199 (Feb.), 1925; p. 198]
1928In a nationwide radio broadcast entitled "The Struggle of Mankind Against Its Deadliest Foe," celebrating the second annual Narcotic Education Week, Richmond P. Hobson, prohibition crusader and anti-narcotics propagandist, declares: "Suppose it were announced that there were more than a million lepers among our people. Think what a shock the announcement would produce! Yet drug addiction is far more incurable than leprosy, far more tragic to its victims, and is spreading like a moral and physical scourge… Most of the daylight robberies, daring holdups, cruel murders and similar crimes of violence are now known to be committed chiefly by drug addicts, who constitute the primary cause of our alarming crime wave. Drug addiction is more communicable and less curable that leprosy… Upon the issue hangs the perpetuation of civilization, the destiny of the world, and the future of the human race." [Quoted in Musto, The American Disease, p. 191]
1928It is estimated that in Germany one out of every hundred physicians is a morphine addict, consuming 0.1 grams of the alkaloid or more per day. [Eric Hesse, Narcotics and Drug Addiction, p. 41]
1929About one gallon of denatured industrial in ten is diverted into bootleg liquor. About forty Americans per million die each year from drinking illegal alcohol, mainly as a result of methyl (wood) alcohol poisoning. [Sinclair, op. cit. p. 201]
1930The Federal Bureau of Narcotics is formed. Many of its agents, including its first commissioner, Harry J. Anslinger, are former prohibition agents.
1935The American Medical Association passes a resolution declaring that "alcoholics are valid patients." [Quoted in Neil Kessel and Henry Walton, Alcoholism, p. 21]
1936The Pan-American Coffee Bureau is organized to promote coffee use in the U.S. Between 1938 and 1941 coffee consumption increased 20%. From 1914 to 1938 consumption had increased 20%. [Coffee, Encyclopedia Britannica (1949), Vol. 5, p. 975A]
1937Shortly before the Marijuana Tax Act, Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger writes: "How many murders, suicides, robberies, criminal assaults, hold-ups, burglaries, and deeds of maniacal insanity it [marijuana] causes each year, especially among the young, can only be conjectured." [Quoted in John Kaplan, Marijuana, p. 92]
1937The Marijuana Tax Act is enacted.
1938Since the enactment of the Harrison Act in 1914, 25,000 physicians have been arraigned on narcotics charges, and 3,000 have served penitentiary sentences. [Kolb, op. cit. p. 146]
1938Dr. Albert Hoffman, a chemist at Sandoz Laboratories in Basle, Switzerland, synthesizes LSD. Five years later he inadvertently ingests a small amount of it, and observes and reports effects on himself.
1941Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek orders the complete suppression of the poppy; laws are enacted providing the death penalty for anyone guilty of cultivating the poppy, manufacturing opium, or offering it for sale. [Lindesmith, The Addict and the Law, 198]
1943Colonel J.M. Phalen, editor of the Military Surgeon, declares in an editorial entitled "The Marijuana Bugaboo": "The smoking of the leaves, flowers, and seeds of Cannabis sativa is no more harmful than the smoking of tobacco… It is hoped that no witch hunt will be instituted in the military service over a problem that does not exist." [Quoted in ibid. p. 234]
1946According to some estimates there are 40,000,000 opium smokers in China. [Hesse, op. cit. p. 24]
1949Ludwig von Mises, leading modern free-market economist and social philosopher: "Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. A good case could be made out in favor of the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. And why limit the governments benevolent providence to the protection of the individual’s body only? Is not the harm a man can inflect on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and listening to bad music? The mischief done by bad ideologies, surely, is much more pernicious, both for the individual and for the whole society, than that done by narcotic drugs." [Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, pp. 728-729]
1951According to United Nations estimates, there are approximately 200 million marijuana users in the world, the major places being India, Egypt, North Africa, Mexico, and the United States. [Jock Young, The Drug Takers, p. 11]
1951Twenty thousand pound of opium, three hundred pounds of heroin, and various opium-smoking devices are publicly burned in Canton China. Thirty-seven opium addicts are executed in the southwest of China. [Margulies, China has no drug problem—why? Parade, 0ct. 15 1972, p. 22]
1954Four-fifths of the French people questioned about wine assert that wine is "good for one’s health," and one quarter hold that it is "indispensable." It is estimated that a third of the electorate in France receives all or part of its income from the production or sale of alcoholic beverages; and that there is one outlet for every forty- five inhabitants. [Kessel and Walton, op. cit. pp. 45, 73]
1955The Prasidium des Deutschen Arztetages declares: "Treatment of the drug addict should be effected in the closed sector of a psychiatric institution. Ambulatory treatment is useless and in conflict, moreover, with principles of medical ethics." The view is quoted approvingly, as representative of the opinion of "most of the authors recommending commitment to an institution," by the World Health Organization in 1962. [World Health Organization, The Treatment of Drug Addicts, p. 5]
1955The Shah of Iran prohibits the cultivation and use of opium, used in the country for thousands of years; the prohibition creates a flourishing illicit market in opium. In 1969 the prohibition is lifted, opium growing is resumed under state inspection, and more than 110,000 persons receive opium from physicians and pharmacies as "registered addicts." [Henry Kamm, They shoot opium smugglers in Iran, but…" The New York Times Magazine, Feb. 11, 1973, pp. 42-45]
1956The Narcotics Control Act in enacted; it provides the death penalty, if recommended by the jury, for the sale of heroin to a person under eighteen by one over eighteen. [Lindesmith, The Addict and the Law, p. 26]
1958Ten percent of the arable land in Italy is under viticulture; two million people earn their living wholly or partly from the production or sale of wine. [Kessel and Walton, op. cit., p. 46]
1960The United States report to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs for 1960 states: "There were 44,906 addicts in the United States on December 31, 1960…" [Lindesmith, The Addict and The Law, p. 100]
1961The United Nations’ "Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 10 March 1961" is ratified. Among the obligations of the signatory states are the following: "Art. 42. Know users of drugs and persons charges with an offense under this Law may be committed by an examining magistrate to a nursing home… Rules shall be also laid down for the treatment in such nursing homes of unconvicted drug addicts and dangerous alcoholics." [Charles Vaille, A model law for the application of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, United Nations Bulletin on Narcotics, 21:1-12 (April-June), 1961]
1963Tobacco sales total $8.08 billion, of which $3.3 billion go to federal, state, and local taxes. A news release from the tobacco industry proudly states: "Tobacco products pass across sales counters more frequently than anything else—except money." [Tobacco: After publicity surge Surgeon General’s Report seems to have little enduring effect, Science, 145:1021-1022 (Sept. 4), 1964; p. 1021]
1964The British Medical Association, in a Memorandum of Evidence to the Standing Medical Advisory Committee’s Special Sub- committee on Alcoholism, declares: "We feel that in some very bad cases, compulsory detention in hospital offer the only hope of successful treatment… We believe that some alcoholics would welcome compulsory removal and detention in hospital until treatment is completed." [Quoted in Kessel and Walton, op. cit. p. 126]
1964An editorial in The New York Times calls attention to the fact that "the Government continues to be the tobacco industry’s biggest booster. The Department of Agriculture lost $16 million in supporting the price of tobacco in the last fiscal year, and stands to loose even more because it has just raised the subsidy that tobacco growers will get on their 1964 crop. At the same time, the Food for Peace program is getting rid of surplus stocks of tobacco abroad." [Editorial, Bigger agricultural subsidies… even more for tobacco, The New York Times, Feb. 1, 1964, p. 22]
1966Sen. Warren G. Magnuson makes public a program, sponsored by the Agriculture Department, to subsidize "attempts to increase cigarette consumption abroad… The Department is paying to stimulate cigarette smoking in a travelogue for $210,000 to subsidize cigarette commercials in Japan, Thailand, and Austria." An Agriculture Department spokesman corroborates that "the two programs were prepared under a congressional authorization to expand overseas markets for U.S. farm commodities." [Edwin B. Haakinsom, Senator shocked at U.S. try to hike cigarette use abroad, Syracuse Herald-American, Jan. 9, 1966, p. 2]
1966Congress enacts the "Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act, inaugurating a federal civil commitment program for addicts.
1966C. W. Sandman, Jr. chairman of the New Jersey Narcotic Drug Study Commission, declares that LSD is "the greatest threat facing the country today … more dangerous than the Vietnam War." [Quoted in Brecher et al., op. cit. p. 369]
1967New York State’s "Narcotics Addiction Control Program" goes into effect. It is estimated to cost $400 million in three years, and is hailed by Government Rockefeller as the "start of an unending war…" Under the new law, judges are empowered to commit addicts for compulsory treatment for up to five years. [Murray Schumach, Plan for addicts will open today: Governor hails start, The New York Times, April 1, 1967]
1967The tobacco industry in the United States spends an estimated $250 million on advertising smoking. [Editorial, It depends on you, Health News (New York State), 45:1 (March), 1968]
1968The U.S. tobacco industry has gross sales of $8 billion. Americans smoke 544 billion cigarettes. [Fort, op. cit. p. 21]
1968Canadians buy almost 3 billion aspirin tablets and approximately 56 million standard does of amphetamines. About 556 standard doses of barbiturates are also produced or imported for consumption in Canada. [Canadian Government’s Commission of Inquiry, The Non-Medical Uses of Drugs, p. 184
1968Six to seven percent of all prescriptions written under the British National Health Service are for barbiturates; it is estimated that about 500,000 British are regular users. [Young, op. cit. p. 25]
1968Brooklyn councilman Julius S. Moskowitz charges that the work of New York City’s Addiction Services Agency, under its retiring Commissioner, Dr. Efren Ramierez, was a "fraud," and that "not a single addict has been cured." [Charles G. Bennett, Addiction agency called a "fraud," New York Times, Dec. 11, 1968, p. 47]
1969U.S. production and value of some medical chemicals: barbiturates: 800,000 pounds, $2.5 million; aspirin (exclusive of salicylic acid) 37 million pounds, value "withheld to avoid disclosing figures for individual producers"; salicylic acid: 13 million pounds, $13 million; tranquilizers: 1.5 million pounds, $7 million. [Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 1971 92nd Annual Edition, p. 75]
1969The parents of 6,000 secondary-level students in Clifton, New Jersey, are sent letters by the Board of Education asking permission to conduct saliva tests on their children to determine whether or not they use marijuana. [Saliva tests asked for Jersey youths on marijuana use, New York Times, Apr. 11, 1969, p. 12]
1970Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Nobel Laureate in Medicine and Physiology, in reply to being asked what he would do if he were twenty today: "I would share with my classmates rejection of the whole world as it is—all of it. Is there any point in studying and work? Fornication—at least that is something good. What else is there to do? Fornicate and take drugs against the terrible strain of idiots who govern the world." [Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, in The New York Times, Feb. 20, 1970, quoted in Mary Breastead, Oh! Sex Education!, p. 359]
1971President Nixon declares that "America’s Public Enemy No. 1 is drug abuse." In a message to Congress, the President calls for the creation of a Special Action Office of Drug Abuse Prevention. [The New Public Enemy No. 1, Time, June 28, 1971, p. 18]
1971On June 30, 1971, President Cvedet Sunay of Turkey decrees that all poppy cultivation and opium production will be forbidden beginning in the fall of 1972. [Patricia M Wald et al. (Eds.), Dealing with Drug Abuse, p. 257]
1972Myles J. Ambrose, Special Assistant Attorney General of the United States: "As of 1960, the Bureau of Narcotics estimated that we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 55,000 addicts … they estimate now the figure is 560,000. [Quoted in U.S. News and World Report, April 3, 1972, p. 38]
1972The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs proposes restricting the use of barbiturates on the ground that they "are more dangerous than heroin." [Restrictions proposed on barbiturate sales, Syracuse Herald-Journal, Mar 16, 1972, p. 32]
1972The house votes 366 to 0 to authorize "a $1 billion, three-year federal attack on drug abuse." [$1 billion voted for drug fight, Syracuse Herald-Journal, March 16, 1972, p. 32]
1972At the Bronx house of corrections, out of a total of 780 inmates, approximately 400 are given tranquilizers such as Valium, Elavil, Thorazine, and Librium. "’I think they [the inmates] would be doing better without some of the medication,’ said Capt. Robert Brown, a correctional officer. He said that in a way the medications made his job harder … rather than becoming calm, he said, an inmate who had become addicted to his medication ’will do anything when he can’t get it.’" [Ronald Smothers, Muslims: What’s behind the violence, The New York Times, Dec. 26, 1972, p. 18]
1972In England, the pharmacy cost of heroin is $.04 per grain (60 mg.), or $.00067 per mg. In the United States, the street price is $30 to $90 per grain, or $.50 or $1.50 per mg. [Wald et al. (Eds.) op. cit. p. 28]
1973A nationwide Gallop poll reveals that 67 percent of the adults interviewed "support the proposal of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller that all sellers of hard drugs be given life imprisonment without possibility of parole." [George Gallup, Life for pushers, Syracuse Herald-American, Feb. 11, 1973]
1973Michael R. Sonnenreich, Executive Director of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, declares: "About four years ago we spent a total of $66.4 million for the entire federal effort in the drug abuse area… This year we have spent $796.3 million and the budget estimates that have been submitted indicate that we will exceed the $1 billion mark. When we do so, we become, for want of a better term, a drug abuse industrial complex.: [Michael R. Sonnenreich, Discussion of the Final Report of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, Villanova Law Review, 18:817-827 (May), 1973; p. 818]
197?Operation Intercept. All vehicles returning from Mexico are checked by Nixon’s order. Long lines occur and, as usual no dent is made in drug traffic.
1981Congress amends the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the armed forces to enforce civil law, so that the military could provide surveillance planes and ships for interdiction purposes.
1984U.S. busts 10,000 pounds of marijuana on farms in Mexico. The seizures, made on five farms in an isolated section of Chihuahua state, suggest a 70 percent increase in estimates that total U.S. consumption was 13,000 to 14,000 tons in 1982. Furthermore, the seizures add up to nearly eight times the 1300 tons that officials had calculated Mexico produced in 1983. [The San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, November 24, 1984]
1985Pentagon spends $40 million on interdiction.
1986The Communist Party boss, Boris Yeltsin said that the Moscow school system is rife with drug addiction, drunkenness and principles that take bribes. He said that drug addiction has become such a problem that there are 3700 registered addicts in Moscow. [The San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 22, 1986, p. 12]