While drugs and their use is generally looked down upon, due to many cases of misuse and abuse, if one looks into it more deeply there are some interesting stories and facts to be learned. Many of today’s recreational drugs were not invented for their current purpose and many of them were discovered by pure accident to begin with. It was only after time that they became outlawed and in the beginning many of them were commercially sold, mostly as prescribed medication.
Probably one of the most famous discoveries related to drugs dates back to 1943, when Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, while working on a way to prevent hemorrhaging in childbirth, accidentally got exposed to a small dose of Lysergic acid diethylamide more commonly known as LSD. At that time Hofmann had no experience in recreational use of drugs and was astounded by the distortion of reality that occurred after LSD intake, which made him perform an experiment on himself. As later reported he ingested 200 micrograms of LSD on 19th April, after determining it to be the safety threshold. The experience was too strong for him and he had his assistant follow him home. Thanks to the WWII prohibition, there were no cars and Hofmann rode his bicycle home all the while being under the influence of the LSD. After he was assured by his physician at home that he was not fatally poisoned, Hofmann proceeded to enjoy his “trip,” which was later described in his book “LSD: My Problem Child.” After that 19th April became known as the “bicycle day” and is still commemorated by some even today.
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Another LSD-related experiment was performed 1962, which did not have such a “happy” ending, mainly due to questionable scientific legitimacy of the method used and the people performing the experiment. As it stands, three men from the University of Oklahoma, led by Louis Jolyon West decided to test the effect of drugs, by experiment on a 7000 pound elephant and injecting him with 297 milligrams of LSD. The elephant went into a seizure and after an hour and a half of trying to resuscitate him, it died. Later, there was a debate whether LSD overdose was the cause of death, or was it due to drugs administered in the attempt to save the elephants life, but the results were never conclusive. As a reference, at a dose prescribed for humans of 0.003 mg/kg, a dose of about 9 milligrams should have been sufficient, but due to belief of “researchers” that the elephant will have a resistance to drugs they decided to increase the dose 30 times. Later research showed that elephants are actually very sensitive to drugs relative to their size and that even lower amounts would provide measurable results.
However, not all animals react to LSD in a bad manner, as shown by an experiment conducted by Peter N. Witt and later confirmed by NASA. In this experiment several spiders were given different drugs including LSD, caffeine and sleeping pills and their web-spinning capabilities observed. All the drugs administer had a negative effect on the spider’s ability to spin web, except small doses of LSD which actually enhanced it. The experiment was conducted in an attempt to measure the toxicity of drugs based on spider’s performance, but the results were inconclusive in both cases.
LSD is not the only among the great variety of drugs that was experimented with in the earlier years. As stated before, many illicit drugs started their lives as prescription medication. There are reports that Nazi scientists created a cocktail of cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone that could make their soldiers march for over 88 kilometers, carrying heavy equipment, without feeling any fatigue. These drugs were never tested on the field as the war has ended before final experiments were finished.
Another instance of today’s illicit drugs being used as medication was in the case of Heroin. In 1898, during a huge tuberculosis outbreak, people were desperately looking for a cough medicine and company called “Bayer,” which was later responsible for Aspirin, marketed Heroin as a safer alternative to Morphine. It was only later that they discovered the severe negative effects that Heroine had on the body as well as its incredibly high addictiveness, which made the company withdraw Heroine as a medicine after a few months.
While many of these stories related to drugs are in case of scientific experimentation in one way or another there are those that have nothing to do with science and have everything to do with plain going-over-the-top. One such story dates back to 1980 and the set of the Blues Brothers movie. According to reports among other things that were covered by the movie’s budget, there was part of it set apart for cocaine. Apparently, somebody decided that the cast and people on the set will function better if they have access to small doses of cocaine. This was the reason that caused one of the stars of the movie, John Belushi to develop a crippling addiction to cocaine, which ultimately led to his death.
Probably the most wide-spread among drugs and the cause of many disputes, Marijuana is especially known for going-over-the-top stories. The international cannabis day, the 20th of April is particularly known to create such stories. There were several reports of people creating the biggest joint in the world, but such cases are rarely well documented. On 20th April in 2013 however, one of the people at Hyde Park was arrested for having a 2 pound-marijuana-joint in his possession. This is the largest documented joint ever created and it is estimated that its worth was around $6000. Its owner was promptly arrested and the joint was confiscated at a great dissatisfaction of nearby onlookers who were lured in by the commotion.
It is important to note that most of these stories date a number of years in the past when the social stigma on drugs was not as strong or the drugs in question was not even invented. The ignorance of people towards the effect of a substance or scientific curiosity was the main cause for drugs being used at first, which had a strong effect on the society, as seen during the “hippie era” and has shaped several generations. Even if it is frowned upon today, the importance of drugs in shaping the history of human society can hardly be overlooked as an important overall factor.