5 Crazy Historical Beliefs About Drugs

Humans have come up with the weirdest theories about drugs that are both medicinal and ritualistic. Here are five bizarre beliefs about drugs from history.

Sep 30, 2016

When we do our research on the history of drugs we at times find out more than we wanted to. Aside from learning how to use them and why we often stumble upon the most bizarre ideas, practices and beliefs. Although the history of using natural drugs like cannabis dates back to thousands of years ago, other human-made drugs like cocaine haven’t been around as long. As a result, humans have come up with the weirdest theories that are both medicinal and ritualistic. Here are five bizarre beliefs about the hostory of drugs.

1. Opium goes nicely with pearls, saffron, and gold leaf

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During the Victorian era, the most popular thing to use was derivative laudanum. Not only did it attract poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but also nurses attempting to relieve pain from a teething baby. However, the history of using laudanum dates back way before the Victorian era.

Although it’s not for certain, Paracelsus, a Swiss thinker from the 16th century, is said to be the first creator of laudanum. In fact, Paracelsus added a little extra to his version.

Aside from containing amber and musk, it also included gold leaf and crushed pearls along with the opium itself. Being that Paracelsus firmly believed in alchemy (transforming matter into other substances), this is perhaps the reason why he decided to create his own.

2. Cocaine wool relieves toothaches

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Back in the day, people viewed cocaine as an unharmful cure-all-pain reliever. From seasickness to headaches, cocaine was the go-to drug.

Being that these people also believed it was safe for children, the fact that they also used it for toothaches isn’t at all surprising. In particular, people would rub cocaine on their gums to get rid of tooth pain.

Around the 1900s, cocaine wool made its way on the market, which people put in the cavities of a bothersome tooth. Although it may have worked for some, cannabis would have been a much smarter alternative.

3. Cannabis will cleanse you after an exhausting funeral

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This strange theory comes from Roman historian Herodotus. Although his ideas are usually rubbish, his conclusion about the Scythians civilization is backed up by archaeology.

As it turns out, Scythians burned cannabis seeds in a vapor-bath as a part of the funeral rituals.

…When, therefore, the Scythians have taken some seed of this hemp, they creep under the cloths and put the seeds on the red hot stones; but this being put on smokes, and produces such a steam, that no Grecian vapour-bath would surpass it. The Scythians, transported by the vapour, shout aloud.

Bath time didn’t come easy, however. In fact, Professor James Butrica, a classics specialist, says the Scythians would bathe directly after a strenuous funeral.

Instead of a wake, they put the corpse of the deceased into a wagon. And for forty days took it on visits to the homes of friends and kin, where it was served at table along with the other guests. It was at the end of this period of mourning that men resorted to the hemp-baths as a form of cleansing.

Of course, the whole idea sounds like complete nonsense. However, Archaeology Magazine made a report about two months ago stating that archaeologists discovered a Scythians funeral mound that held several small dishes with opium and cannabis remainings.

Archaeologists believe the small plates hung around the necks of the Scythians continuously for rituals.

4. LSD reveals the truth

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This is one of the most bizarre beliefs in American History, as well as the history of drugs in general.

Between 1953 and 1964, the CIA deeply investigated the idea that LSD can be used as a form of biochemical warfare. Specifically, to force enemies and prisoners, to tell the truth while under pressure.

Project MKUltra is what they called it, and it was not only cruel but also unimaginable. From cancer patients to prostitutes, the CIA would test anybody without permission.

The CIA had multiple unbelievable reasons for coming up with Project MKUltra. In 1977, a Senate committee hearing found what exactly the CIA wanted to achieve. And here are just a few:

  • Produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use
  • Produce shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use
  • Produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia

Of course, these tests were unsuccessful. Some cases caused fatal damage, some were devitalized, and one scientist even died. Although records of the project were supposedly destroyed by the director of the CIA in 1973, they later came back to light when people began digging deeper into the government programs in the wake of Watergate.

5. Hallucinogenic ointments cause witches to be devilish

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Although some believe witches are servants of the devil, the Europeans had a different theory. Oddly enough, they thought hallucinogenic ointments were to blame for witches being.. well.. witches.

In fact, Andres de Laguna is the most famous of believers. In 1529, he wrote that the home of a dead witch and wizard had a,

Certain green ointment… composed of soporific herbs such as hemlock, nightshade, henbane, and mandrake.

As a result of curiosity, he decided to cover the executer’s wife with the same ointment to see what would happen. After apparently sleeping for 36 hours, she woke up saying the experience was rather pleasant and that she slept with someone cuter than her husband.

In the end of the observation, no one commented on whether or not the ointments were to blame.

Do you know of any bizarre historical facts about drugs? Which of these did you find the oddest? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.

Sep 30, 2016