The Straight Dope

When I was writing The Cartoon Guide to Recreational Drugs I scoured the local libraries and bookstores looking for useful and interesting historical works. The Straight Dope 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.


Answers to the Questions that Torment Everyone. Cecil Adams.

p. 8

A two-part question: we all know cats freak out over catnip—but why? What is it about catnip that gives our feline friends such pleasure? One of my cats, a neutered male named Ivan, also gets off on the scent of imported Spanish olives—once to the point of incontinence. What gives? Is there some chemical similarity between catnip and olive juice?—Bob J., Chicago

Catnip research, not too surprisingly, has not kept pace with the other branches of biology, and consequently very little is known about the workings of this exotic drug, if drug it be. The oder released from the crushed leaves of Nepeta cataria, as this small mint plant is known, seems to affect only members of the cat family, lions and tigers not excepted. Even cats from parts of the world where catnip is unknown immediately succumb to the aroma.

Catnip seems to have the effect of a stimulant, accelerating the victim’s heartbeat and inducing an uncontrollable urge to “frisk” and/or “scamper,” to put it in technical terms. Root of valerian (which, interestingly enough, was once used as a sedative for humans) has a similar effect on cats, but the scent of Spanish olives seems to be a weakness exclusive to Ivan. It seems less likely that Ivan is in the grip of a catnip-like euphoria than that he’s possessed by another emotion not entirely foreign to housecats, namely “hunger.”