The Marquis of Outrage-Nature in His Laboratory Dress, 1716
Worlds u better use for it. The British East India Company sent thousands of adventurers abroad. Tobacco and opium smoking were forced on China, leading to nineteenth-century "opium wars." The Asians lost, a fact the British victors smugly called "opening the doors of China."
So many drug plants flowed into Europe that science and technology accelerated at a maddening pace. The Swedish royal botanist CarJ Linnaeus invented genus-and-species classification to bring some order out of this chaos. He also grew marijuana on his window sill to confirm the sexuality of plants, which the monk Gregor Mendel later elevated to the science of genetics. Pro toche mists such as the eighteenth century's "Marquis of Outrage" experimented with a new alchemy based on Cordus and Paracelsus-ihe extraction of crude drugs in alcohol ie tinctures.
Trying to find a foothold from which to wrest India from the British, Napoleon led his troops and a contingent of scientific observers into Egypt in J 798. There, a whole army of Frenchmen turned on with hashish. French doctors in North Africa learned about the medical value of cannabis, and j.j . Moreau de Tours invented modern psychopharmacolog} and psychotomimetic drug treatment with studies on datura aDd hashish (1845). India was the choicest assignment for young British officers, and many, like Robert Clive, first governor of Bengal, became opium addicts. A bright young surgeon, William B. O'Shaughnessy, introduced cannabis to Western medicine (1839) and the telegraph to India. Questions were put in PajJiament about opium and cannabis, culminating in the first massive modern government investigations of drugs (for example, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report in 1894). Meanwhile, scholars busied themselves studying the Vedas and discovered that their ancestors were linked to the vast Indo-European language family in ages long past..
Preparation of crude drags advanced the procedures of analytic chemistry enough so that in 1806 a German pharmacist, F.W.A. Sertuiner, was able to extract an alkaloid from opium that he named morphine, in horror of Morpheus, the Roman god of dreams. This ushered in the great nineteenth-century era of alkaloid toxicology. Caventou and Pel letter in Paris isolated strychnine from mix vomica, quinine from cinchona, caffeine from coffee; others followed with atropine from belladonna, coniine from hemlock and hyoscyamine from henbane. The availability of pure alkaloids put pharmacology on a firm footing by alio wing close scrutiny of dose-effect
MADAME TUSSAUD & SONS1
EXHIBITION, bazaar, bakfjt street, portman square.
bazaar, bakfjt street, portman square.
And his Favourite Consort
EFFECTS OF AYAHUASCA (YAGE) nAya-huasca is used by the Zaparos, Anguteros, Maza'nes and oilier tribes precisely as I saw caapi used on ihe Uaupes, viz. as a narcotic stimulant at their feasts. It is also drunk by the medicine man, when called on to adjudicate in a dispute or quarrel-to give the proper answer to an embassy-to discover the plans of an enemy-lo leUL if strangers are coming-to ascertain if wives are unfaithful-in the case of a sick man to tell who has bewitched him, etc.
"AU who have partaken of it feel first vertigo; then as if they rose up into the air and were floating about.. The Indians say they see beautiful lakes, woods laden with fruit, birds of brilliant plumage, etc. Soon the scene changes. They see savage beasts preparing to seize them; they can no longer hold themselves up, but fall to the ground. At this crisis the Indian wakes up from his trance, and if he were not held down in his hammock by force, he would spring to his feeet, seize his arms and attack the first person who stood in his way. Then he becomes drowsy, and finally sleeps. If he be a medicine man who has taken it, when he has slept off the fumes he recalls all he saw in his trance, and thereupon deduces the prophecy, divination or what not required of him."
Richard Spruce from his notes published in 1908
relationships, elucidated in Francois Magendie's Fonnuiaire of 1821, the granddaddy of the Physicians' Desk Reference.
Soon youthful explorers were scouring the planet in search of more medicines. Richard Spruce plunged into the Amazon and, in an uncanny burst of foresight.. collected stems of ycge' (ayahuasca, caapi) for chemical analysis. Had anyone bothered to analyze them, he would have realized that quite unrelated Old and New Wodd species can contain the same chemicals, and the science of chemotaxonomy that Spruce foresaw would have been born. Not until 70 years later did chemists recognize that "telepathine" from the Amazon vine was the same as the harmine. from Dioscorides's old, familiar Syrian rue. As it was, Spruce's specimens served another purpose. Richard Evans Schultes of Harvard had them analyzed in 1969 and showed the amazing longevity of these hallucinogens: they were as active as if the material had been collected yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Amazon spawned another scientific revelation. Naturalist Alfred R. Wallace collected plants, butterflies and beasts in,the same teeming jungles and Chades Darwin did likewise on the voyage of the Beagle. Both read Mallhus's Essay on Human Population and independently hit on the principles of natural selection, which have become the basis of modem biology.
"Natural selection could only have endowed savage man with a brain a few degrees superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses one very little inferior to that of a philosopher," Wallace wrote, seeing very cleanly that the slightest alteration in consciousness could wreak profound changes in the species. ''With our advent there had come into existence a being in whom that subtle force we leim 'mind' became of far more importance than mere bodily structure.'1
Inevitably, each new drug discovery was accompanied by a flurry of popular use. Thomas De Quincey founded modern dope literature with his Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821) as a direct result, of his experiences with laudanum, which he had taken for face and stomach pains. There were, of course, no laws against narcotics, and De Quincey himself noted that "the number of amateur opium-eaters (as I may term them) was, at this time, immense." Not only did poets like Coleridge, Crabbe and Thompson indulge; there were also thousands of working people-cottonmillers, housewives, sweatshop kids-who nightly drowned their sorrows in gin and laudanum and daily intei-spersed their hours of drudgery with coffee breaks. The international influence of De Quincey's book was enormous. Alfred de Musset and Chades Baudelaire published translations of De Quincey, freely adapting the text to include their own experiences with wine, hashish and opium. Most of the great French Romantics observed or look part in the "Club des Haschichins" founded by Theophile Gautier, and Baudelaire's eloquent Les Paradis artificiels (¡860) assured him a prominent place among the classic authors of drug literature: Meanwhile, in Schenectady, New York, a Union College undergrad named Fitz Hugh Ludlow read De Quincey avidly, experimented with all the drugs on the local apolhecary's shelf and penned America's first great compendium of recreational drug use, The Hasheesh Eater (1857).
But the woddwide polydrug subculture of a hundred years ago was sljll centered in the ancient search for anesthetics. Since the Dark Ages, almost the only painkillers available for surgery were mandrake, opium, belladonna and booze-hardly effective in stilling the screams of patients strapped in the hoiTor chambers called operating rooms. True, Valerius Cordus's sweet oil of vitriol (ether) was used occasionally during the eighteenth century, bui it took further advances in technology lo make it really practical. . Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen and nitrous' oxide (1772), and Sir Humphry Davy experimented with nitrous oxide at Dr. Thomas Beddoes's Pneumatic
Thomas De Quineey Sketch of Nopoteon in exile
Institution in Bristol (1800), as did Coleridge, De Quineey and Toni Wedgwood (of Wedgwood china fame). Soon -ether frolics and laughing gas parties were all the rage among the youth.
Itinerant medicine shows popularized ether and nitrous oxide administered through strange mechanical contraptions. Sam Colt, for instance, toured the Wild West with six gaudy Indians and a nitrous tank, trying to make enough money to patent his new revolver-and before long, medical men got the message. A young dentist, Horace Wells, watched one of these nitrous stage shows and arranged through a colleague, William Morton, to demonstrate the gas in the classroom of the solemn surgeon John Collins Warren at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston ( I H44). Unfortunately, Weils didn't know the proper amount of gas to give his burly patient, who writhed in agony as his tooth was pulled, and Wells was denounced with the scornful epithet "humbug!" But Dr. Charles Johnson suggested that ether, a more reliable substance, be used, and Motion worked to perfect a sponge inhaler that would administer steadier doses of iu in 1846, Morton returned to Warren's class and anesthetized a patient with ether so Warren could remove a tumor from the man's face. "GentLeinen," Warren gravely announced in the stunned silence that greeted the success of the operation, "this is no humbug."
Indeed it was not.. Everybody tried ether on the slightest excuse, and physicians vied with each other to discover other anesthetics. Sir James Young Simpson, a great Ed in burgh obstetrician, gathered wife and friends around his dining tabic to sample lots of chemicals and found that chloroform worked more quickly than ether, so was more effective in relieving pains of childbirth. (Queen Victoria was delivered under chloroform.) Another famed Edinburgh teacher. Sir Robert Christ ison, head of the British Medical Association, self-experimented with coca, cannabis, opium, coniine, strychnine and even extracts from the dread Calabar ordeal bean of West Africa.
The last of the major plant alkaloids to be isolated in the nineteenth century was cocaine, by Albert Niemann of Gbttingen, about I860. An enterprising chemist, Angelo Mariani, marketed a vastly popular coca wine and invented modern te stiino nia! advert i sing-Sarah B ernhart 11, Alphonse Mucha, Pope Leo XIII, presidents Grant and McKinley, H. G. Wells and Thomas Edison were among the thousands who endorsed the heady tonic.
Then, in 1884, young Sigmund Freud bought himself a gram of Merck cocaine ($1.27) and
Thomas De Quineey Sketch of Nopoteon in exile
THE DOSES OF A DRUG FIEND "Our minds, too, began to play us false. We found ourselves arguing as to what a dose was. As the doses became fewer, (Iiey became larger. Presently, ^ arrived at the stage where what we considered a fair dose could not be conveniently, taken at a single sniff. And then, worst of all, it broke on me one day, when I was struggling hard against the temptation to indulge that the period between doses, however prolonged it might be, was being regarded merely in that light.. In other words, it was a negative thing."
A leister Crowley Diary of a Drug Fiend, 1922
published Uber Coca, a brilliant monograph that suggested the drug as an anesthetic and cure for morphinism. His friend Caul Koller demonstrated the use of cocaine as a local anesthetic for eye surgery a year later-a wodd-shaking discovery that filled the pages of newspapers and scientific journals for many months. It became part of every medical student's training to experiment with an inflnile variety of drugs on himself, animals, patients, relatives, Mends and then a whole new generation of students.
The woiJd awakened with a new and panoramic consciousness; as medicine had once derived from magic, now it turned to scientific mysticism to explain the unearthly mental effects of the drugs. William James, who had giggled at laughing gas parties as a young man, spoke of the ''anesthetic revelation1' at Edinburgh in 1901, and the twentieth century was born.
Exploration of inner space with the techniques of modern science began. James was given peyote by S. Weir MiLchell, who had been experimenting with the cactus and mescaline since the 1880s. Investigation of peyote was the prototype for the contemporary study of hallucinogens, and with increased communications in scientific circles, researchers got to know each others' work more quickly. Heinrieh Kliiver's little classic, Mescal (1928), for instance, was read in 1936 by Harvard student Richard Schultes, who switched from premed to botany because of it and took off to Oklahoma with anthropologist Weston La Barre to study Indian peyote riles. La Barre's book The Peyote Cult» is now consulted as a guide lo the old ways by Indian leaders; Schultes is now the foremost botanist of plant hallucinogens in the world, and his illustrator, Elmer W. Smith, provides the most accurate botanical drawings of drug plants in our lime.
"Lost ni£ht l received a four-ounce parcel letter fey post On opening it, it contained my letter bom Gunville, rind n i«rcel,a small one. of Bong ¡hashish] fr>m Purkis We will have a fair trial of Bang-do brin; down somertf the Hyoscyamine Fills, and I will give 3 fair trial of Hensbane and Nepenthe, ton."
Samoel Tayfcr Coleridge in * litter to a friend, If*« '■"•'- ••: i. - -' ■• - v -.'. - i.. !t ; -.:
Was this article helpful?