All Hopped Up: Drugs in America


Advertisement for cocaine toothache drops, 1885.

Advertisement for cocaine toothache drops, 1885.


In December, recreational marijuana use became legal in Washington and Colorado. But back in the early 20th century, both states were among the first to ban the drug. If that seems like a radical change, well – it’s hardly the first time a drug has undergone a major image overhaul in America. This week, we trace the changing face of drugs – and drug users – in the U.S.

We start in the 19th century, when opium and cocaine were perfectly legal, and heroin was touted as for cure for morphine addiction. And we bring the story right on up through the 1970s, when Vietnam vets and suburban housewives triggered two very different drug panics. Throughout, we’ll look at the story of the criminalization – and in the case of pot, decriminalization — of those substances. Along the way, we explore the influence of the medical establishment, as well as the role of popular culture, in shaping American attitudes about drugs.

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