The Drug Policy Alliance, an organization dedicated to the promotion of drug policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights, recently published an article entitled the “The Real History of Drugs.”
The author, Tony Newman, asks “why are some drugs legal and some prohibited? Why do we arrest approximately 600,000 Americans each year for marijuana possession, but sell tobacco and alcohol on most corners? Why do we lock up people who use meth for years, and dole out the similar drug Ritalin to our children?”
He then answers these questions with a single statement: a mixture of racism, stigma, and the individuals perceived to be using the illegal drugs.
At the same time, the article points toward short, slick videos that address the “real” history of substances, including cocaine, cannabis, and
as well as LSD
The video are well-produced and easily digestible.
Here’s the thing, though. Any “real” history of drugs will require a close reading of Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la médecine.
In the realm of pharmaceuticals, you have Jackie Duffin’s In View of the Body of Job Broom: A Glimpse of the Medical Knowledge and Practice of John Rolph, Stephen Francom’s Pharmacy Records at the Archives of Ontario: Their Form, Content, and Value for Research, Laura Hirshbein’s Masculinity, Work, and the Fountain of Youth: Irving Fisher and the Life Extension Institute, 1914-31, and Peters’s and Snelders’s From King Kong Pills to Mother’s Little Helpers—Career Cycles of Two Families of Psychotropic Drugs: The Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines.
(In fact, the entire volume in which Peters and Snelders published their work contains wonderful, wide-ranging drugs-related articles.)
Then, in the realm of intoxicants and addiction, there’s Krasnick’s Because there is Pain: Alcoholism, Temperance and the Victorian Physician, Dan Malleck’s “Its Baneful Influences Are Too Well Known”: Debates over Drug Use in Canada, 1867-1908, Catherine Carstairs’s Deporting “Ah Sin” to Save the White Race: Moral Panic, Racialization, and the Extension of Canadian Drug Laws in the 1920s, and Dan Malleck’s (yes, Malleck again) “A State Bordering on Insanity”?:Identifying Drug Addiction in Nineteenth-Century Canadian Asylums.
Look, this is not a comprehensive list of all the articles that tackle drugs in CBHM-BCHM. Instead, this is just to provide a flavour…
So, when you’re looking for the “real” history of drugs, go further, dig deeper, and read happily. When you’re looking for answers to questions like those posed by Tony Newman, hit up the CBHM-BCHM.
For more on what I’m doing with the CBMH/BCMH, please see the announcement here and be sure to visit https://cshm-schm.ca/