The Role of Chemistry in History

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History Affects Morphine II: Cultural Antipathy and Anti-Narcotics Laws

April 30th, 2008 · No Comments ·

Morphine: An Introduction | Discovery and Synthesis of Morphine | Addiction and Opiate Receptors | Morphine Affects History: Modern Pharmacology | History Affects Morphine: The Hypodermic Needle | History Affects Morphine II: Cultural Antipathy and Anti-Narcotics Law| References

  • During the 19th century morphine – like many other narcotics of the day – was not regulated by federal law

  • The actual impetus for the criminalization of drugs lay in the transformation of drug users into “moral reprobates” (Watters)

  • By the end of that century, the view of drug use went from that of illness – as seen with Civil War soldiers – to that of a “manifestation of moral weakness;” such a negative view was linked to growing animosity toward immigrants from East Asia, as drugs – especially opium – became indicative of a foreign adulteration of “pure” American culture (Renner)

  • It may have also linked to residual Puritan values and the Third Great Awakening; William Shughart states that the “federal antinarcotics crusade […] is justifiably seen as a component of the progressive-prohibitionist campaign that originated with the religious precepts of the Puritan colonists”

  • In response to these undercurrents, then, many states adopted anti-narcotics laws in the late 1890s, and the federal government followed suit, passing both the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914

  • The Pure Food and Drug Act required contents to appear on the label of many products, and as a result, the amount of morphine and cocaine in pharmaceuticals was not only reduced, but the demand for and use of morphine, opium, and heroin dropped drastically

  • As for the Harrison Act, which marked the “first salvo in the war on drugs” (Renner), it put intense pressure via tax legislation on the many public morphine maintenance clinics, at which addicts could receive their drug from physicians

Tags: Morphine