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Section 3: Drugs
TOPIC SECTION:
Drugs
What drugs are illegal, and which are socially acceptable, changed radically through the twentieth century. In the previous hundred years, t
Image: Ivory opium pipe with ornate metal mount, Chinese.
The smoking of opium as in this Chinese opium pipe is one of humanity's longest traditions
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
he British had established a flourishing trade exporting opium from India to China. Yet morphine, an extract of opiu
Before 1960 most narcotic addicts were professional people
m, came to be the model of the addictive drug in the west. Deprivation of the drug caused intense craving and physical suffering. This came to be the classic symptom of addiction.

Heroin is a chemical derivative of morphine, called diacetyl morphine. At the beginning of the twentieth century the new synthetic drugs such as cocaine and heroin were freely available, although their use was progressively controlled by law.  Experiments with mind-altering drugs became popular among intellectuals such as Aldous Huxley in the 1920s.

Before 1960 most narcotic addicts were professional people. A Health Department s
Image: Bronze Age 'base ring' juglets, Cyprus, 14th century
These Bronze Age 'base ring' juglets were used to transport opium
Credit:Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
tudy in 1961 concluded that the problem of addiction was very small. In the 1960s younger people began to use such drugs as heroin. However, as late as 1971 the number of addicts was small.

Burgeoning youth cultures of in second half of the 20th century popularised the use of mind-altering drugs. For some the experiments have been fun and temporary, for others they have led to addiction, poverty and crime. In the 1980s addiction to hard drugs such as both cocaine and heroin became much more common across the western world. It is estimated that a high proportion of all prisoners have been trying to make money to support a habit.  Studies of addiction which had begun with alcohol were broadened to include these new threats to public health. Yet even with better laboratory understanding, the social significance and means of controlling drug use on the street are still elusive.

 
 
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Topic section: Alcohol
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Alcohol is the most common form of drug addiction. By far the most accepted drug in the western world it manages to have roles in both religious and anti-social life.  > more

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Section 2: Tobacco
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The definition of a smoking as habitual or addictive has implications beyond health with decisions also being made in the courtrooms.  > more
 
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