Weed, Booze, Cocaine and Other Old School “Medicine” Ads

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Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but some awfully strange substances have been used for pharmaceutical purposes in the past — and some might argue, continue to be used today. Here are some vintage advertisements touting items that we might balk at taking today.

Cocaine:

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Lloyd Cocaine Toothache Drops
In the US, cocaine was sold over the counter until 1914 and was commonly found in products like toothache drops, dandruff remedies and medicinal tonics.

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Metcalf’s Coca Wine
Coca wine combined wine with cocaine, producing a compound now known as cocaethylene, which, when ingested, is nearly as powerful a stimulant as cocaine.

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Vin Mariani Wine
The marketing efforts for coca wine focused primarily on its medicinal properties, in part because it didn’t taste very good and in part because the cocaethylene effects were perceived to “fortify and refresh body and brain” and “restore health and vitality.”

Heroin:

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Bayer Heroin
From 1898 through to 1910, heroin was marketed as a cough suppressant by trusted companies like Bayer — alongside the company’s other new product, Aspirin.

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Smith Glyco-Heroin
A mixture of heroin and glycerin. “No other preparation has had its therapeutic value more thoroughly defined or better established.”

Opium:

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Pantopon Roche Injectable Opium
“Try Pantopon in place of morphine for dependable, optimum relief of pain.”

Morphine:

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Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral
Depending on which list of contents you reference, this cure for colds, coughs and “all diseases of the throat and lungs” contained either morphine or heroin.

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Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup
Contained 65 mg of morphine per fluid ounce. “For children teething.”

Quaaludes:

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Quaalude-300
Brand name for the now-illegal sedative methaqualone. “Now the physician has one less tired, sleepy and apprehensive patient to contend with.”

Cigarettes:

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Dr. Batty’s Asthma Cigarettes
Cigarettes with unknown contents claimed to provide temporary relief of everything from asthma to colds, canker sores and bad breath. “Not recommended for children under 6.”

Alcohol:

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Anheuser-Bush’s Malt-Nutrine
Starting in the late 1800s, many breweries produced “food tonics,” malt beverages containing around 2% alcohol that were promoted as “food in liquid form,” aiding in digestion, increasing appetite and aiding in sleep. “A boon to nursing mothers.”

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Pabst Extract
A malt tonic from Pabst. “The best tonic prepares the way for happy, healthy motherhood.”

Chloroform:

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Kimball White Pine and Tar Cough Syrup
Until 1976, chloroform was used in consumer products like cough syrup, toothpastes, ointments and other pharmaceuticals.

Marijuana:

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Cosadein
This cough remedy contained, among other things, codeine, chloroform and cannabis.

Soda:

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Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola was invented in the late 1800s as a “coca wine” (see above) mix of wine and cocaine, but the alcohol and cocaine were later replaced with syrup and coca leaves, respectively. Nevertheless, typical coca wine claims of increased vitality remained for many years.

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“A valuable brain tonic, and a cure for all nervous affections — sick head-ache, neuralgia, hysteria, melancholy.”

Amphetamines:

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Biphetamine
A combination of two amphetamines; known popularly as “black beauties.” Marketed for its weight loss benefits.

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Norodin
Brand name for methamphetamine. “The selective cerebral action of Norodin is useful in dispelling the shadows of mild mental depression.”

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Dexedrine
Brand name for dextroamphetamine. “Many of your patients — particularly housewives — are crushed under a load of dull, routine duties that leave them in a state of mental and emotional fatigue…Dexedrine will give them a feeling of energy and well-being, renewing their interest in life and living.”

Barbiturates:

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McNeil Butisol Sodium
Brand name for butabarbital. “Mabel is unstable…it’s ‘that time’ in her life. To see her through the menopause, there’s gentle ‘daytime sedation’ in Butisol Sodium.”

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Nembutal Suppositories
Brand name for pentobarbital. “When little patients balk at scary, disquieting examinations…When they need prompt sedation (and the oral route isn’t feasible)…try Nembutal sodium suppositories…There is little tendency toward morning-after hangover.”

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Lakeside Pentobarbital and Phenobarbital
“When crisis demands quick-acting hypnotics.”

Unknown-Content Quackery:

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Dr. Miles’ Nervine
“Since I have been taking Nervine, nothing bothers me.”

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Wolcott’s Instant Pain Annihilator
“A speedy & permanent cure for headache, toothache, neuralgia, catarrh and weak nerves.”

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Dalley’s Magical Pain Extractor
“Molly Pitcher, the heroine of Monmouth, avenging her husband’s death.”

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Dr. Ham’s Aromatic Invigorator
A “cure for Dyspepsia, Low Spirits, Nervousness, Heartburn, Colic Pains, Wind in the Stomach or Pains in the Bowels, Headache, Drowsiness, Kidney and Liver Complaints, Melancholy, Delirium Tremens, and Intemperance.”

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23 Responses to Weed, Booze, Cocaine and Other Old School “Medicine” Ads

  1. Doug Denslowe says:

    Those were the days!”They”(Roosevelt)thought that “happiness”should be found in the church,not in a pill bottle.He threatened third world countries that money would be stopped if they too didn’t pass anti-drug laws.He had the mint put “in God we trust”on our money and in the pledge of allegiance.His decisions have been haunting this country since their inception.

    • Hesster says:

      I think your history is mixed up. In god we trust appeared on coins right after the Civil War. It was added to the pledge in 1956. Neither action coincides with the presidency of either of the Roosevelts.

      • Doug Denslowe says:

        I tip my hat to you,Sir!I thought I knew what I was talking about when I posted this.I used to collect coins and didn’t see the “In God We Trust” on many of my older coins.Is my information on Roosevelt true as far as the drug action he took?Thanks for correcting me,I’m surprised anybody read this in the first place!

        • Hesster says:

          Theodore Roosevelt was President when the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed. The act required drug manufacturers to list certain harmful ingredients like alcohol and opiates but it did not make them illegal. Manufacturers were not required to test their products or show they were effective. It was still perfectly legal to sell worthless and/or poisonous medications.

          That loophole didn’t close until FDR signed the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 after more than 100 people died of diethylene glycol poisoning from an improperly formulated medication called Elixir Sulfanilamide. There’s a lot of information available about that incident if you care to research it, since the tragedy led directly to the passing of the 1938 act, which created the FDA.

          • Doug Denslowe says:

            I was basing my answer on the documentary “Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way.”All I do know is this;people should be judged (and punished)by their deeds and behavior,not for what they choose to take.

          • oiram srepsak says:

            thats a history channel produced docu-series, interesting but one has to be aware…. specially info from docus on these topics are mostly unreliable….im not stating that everything is BS, but lots of dis-information is spread through these discovery-channels, creating “facts” or changing certain details to blur the publics perception of actual (historical) events…. and docus mentioning the so-called “war on drugs” are filled with fairy tales; the drugs in question are not destroyed but the drugs are guarded… the quality of drugs, as well as the availability and quantity has gone through the roof since this “war” started….

    • Jay Ironrod says:

      That’s why they call it Dope…. Doug

  2. Bivman says:

    These are great! took a trip down memory lane…..I’m really 150 years old….

  3. Sammie says:

    Didn’t see anything about marijuana

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  5. Todd Gack says:

    stay off the drugs and save your money and get a new car for sale http://zautos.com/used-car/for-sale/porsche-panamera/ like a porsche

  6. Schizoid_Man says:

    hey! I just realized the ONE TRUE SOURCE of ALL of my life’s problems, pitfalls, and depressions! I DON’T have “Dr. Ham’s Aromatic Invigorator”!!!!……gimme gimme gimme…where can I buy?……I wonder if I’ll be able to “ham it up” after procuring of this wonderful concoction! ha ha

  7. dr_mabeuse says:

    Amazing how different the attitudes toward psychoactives were back then. Opium addiction from patent medicines wasn’t uncommon, but was dwarfed by the problem of alcohol addiction. Americans drank an astonishing amount of booze back then.

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  9. Мики Бумбар says:

    I was hoping to find some ads for one of these drinks. All hardcore spirits that were once invented as a medicine since they have some healing effects.

    http://lordsofthedrinks.com/2014/03/18/10-alcoholic-drinks-to-replace-the-pills-in-your-medicine-cabinet/

  10. Bear Peterson says:

    Although there were indeed “asthma cigarettes” in the past, often containing belladonna (aka Poisonous Nightshade), not tobacco, Dr. Batty’s were born in the Early 21st century in a novelty sign company as a joke “nostalgia” tin sign mocking them, but never as a real product..

  11. Layla Rose says:

    This is so crazy! I knew there were a lot of drugs about back then, but I had no idea that it was this widespread and varied. So crazy to imagine being able to buy actual drugs at the pharmacy.

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