Nov 18, 2002: Part II – History of Drugs of Abuse

In the 1930s, cocaine and opium were driven underground.  Cocaine was the narcotic of choice among musicians, actors, and artists, but decent Americans didn’t use it.  It was Prohibition, after all, and most Americans were too busy finding bootleg gin to think about more exotic intoxicants. 

Marijuana began arriving in the 1920s and 1930s.  Much was brought north by Mexican migrant workers looking for jobs.  But Pot was also regarded with horror.  A 1936 film “Reefer Madness” warned the nation’s youth that smoking the “killer weed” was a direct road to hell, suicide, or at least insanity.

Drugs stayed on the fringe of society in the 1950s.  But in the early 1960s, an obscure Harvard Professor named Timothy Leary began feeding students LSD and advising them to “turn on, tune in, and drop out”.  Fired by Harvard, he promptly became a counterculture deity.
Next Week Part III  

As always, if there are any questions, call the MTPC.

I am interested in any questions that you would like answered in “Question of the Week.”  Please e-mail me with any suggestions at

Donna Seger, M.D.
Medical Director, Middle Tennessee Poison Center