Crockett and Tubbs may only be fictional characters from NBC’s crime drama Miami Vice but it doesn’t take away from the reality of a very real world situation now-illegal drugs are everywhere, and keeping them under any semblance of control is a daunting task.
Less than a hundred years earlier, though, and our two Armani endorsing wundercops would’ve been out of a job. Assuming, of course, they weren’t in the business of hawking any of the dozens of popular products readily available on the market at the time that featured narcotic substances that could find you cuffed and being told to spread ‘em were you caught in possession of them today.
The sugar-rush provider of choice for many, Coca-Cola, included at least trace amounts of cocaine from the time of its inception in 1885 right up until 1929. For the more refined tongue there was Metcalf’s Coca Wine, marketed as a ‘pleasant tonic and invigorator’…that could also get you drunk.
And if you look back at the over the counter cures and remedies druggists were sending their customers home with it’s a wonder there weren’t any reports of withdrawing children curled up in the fetal position suffering from the cold sweats after undergoing treatment for simple dental issues with products like Cocaine Toothache Drops.
For only 15 cents a mother could soothe her child’s pain, although the smart kids probably faked it for as long as they could to keep the hits coming. Not to be outdone, Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, specifically for teething infants, contained morphine.
While morphine is technically not an illegal substance, this remedy’s highly addictive key ingredient produced a startling amount of youngsters whose first words uttered were, “More Mrs. Winslow’s.”
When those cute as a button toddlers weren’t running around the neighbourhood looped on cocaine or morphine they at least had opium as a fallback-especially the ones who couldn’t stop crying and/or pooping.
Godfrey’s Cordial, containing a grain of opium in every two ounces, was claimed to be all a mother would need to alleviate her infant’s colic or diarrhea. Stickney and Poor’s Pure Paregoric featured laudanum (an alcoholic extract containing 10% opium) in addition to being 92 proof.
For comparison’s sake, Jack Daniel’s whiskey (presently given to colicky adults) is 80 proof. Thankfully, Stickney and Poor’s had dosages on the bottle for infants as young as five days old.
Bayer, today known for dozens of products like Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer, back then gave us heroin, a moniker it bestowed upon the compound it produced by boiling morphine. Besides the honour of christening the substance, Bayer also marketed it as a family friendly brand to help with bronchitis and tuberculosis.
Taking a page from the hair of the dog playbook, it suggested it also be used for morphine addiction. Asthmatics and whooping cough sufferers, never high up on the invite list for social events in the early 1900s, at least became a little more bearable provided they were taking their recommended daily dose of Glyco-Heroin.
So, if debunked cure-alls containing questionable ingredients and great chances for addiction are your thing, you might want to leave Sonny and Rico out of the equation and put a call into Doc Brown instead. Maybe he’ll boot McFly out of his time travelling DeLorean long enough for you to hitch a ride back to the glory days (or daze) of anything goes treatments.
- Diniejko, A., 2002. Victorian Drug Use
- McQueeney, K., 2012. The bizarre ‘safe cures’ of 19th century that ‘work like magic’
- Brecher, Edward M., 1972 Nineteenth-century America-“a dope fiend’s paradise”