DRUGGED TO DEATH PART 1

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Stanley
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DRUGGED TO DEATH PART 1

Post by Stanley » 17 Sep 2014, 05:01

DRUGGED TO DEATH? (PART ONE)

As many of you will have realised over the years, my view of our ‘local history’ can be wide-ranging. I don’t believe we can fully understand our heritage unless we give some time and effort to looking at the wider context and applying the evidence we find to our local situation. This topic is a good example of the value of this approach. I want to look at various matters on which I have no direct local evidence but am convinced that the wider evidence applies.

All this was triggered off by my friend Chris Aspin who, around 1970, went down to London and put in some solid research in the British Library. The result was two small books published by the Helmshore Local History Society which are sadly now out of print and very rare. If you want to follow the subject further you’ll find the material on the Oneguy website.

What Chris was looking at was the files of the old Morning Chronicle for 1849. The summer of 1849 provided a powerful argument for the advocates of sanitary reform. Over 33,000 people died in Britain from Cholera, 13,000 in London alone. As the death rate was approximately 50% this meant that double that number were seriously ill. The cause of Cholera would not be positively identified until 1854. The 1849 epidemic, added to previous epidemics, spurred the debate forward and one very concrete result was that the Morning Chronicle in London initiated one of the greatest surveys ever attempted into the social condition of England.

“WE PUBLISH this day,” announced the Morning Chronicle of October 18, 1849, “the first of a series of communications, in which it is proposed to give a full and detailed description of the moral, intellectual, material, and physical condition of the industrial poor throughout England.” The undertaking, which continued until the end of the following year under the heading ‘LABOUR AND THE POOR’, was described by a nineteenth century historian of the English Press as “an unparalleled exploit in journalism”; and E. P. Thompson has said that the correspondents' reports form “the most impressive survey of labour and poverty at mid-century which exists” But apart from the London section, which was the work of Henry Mayhew the project has been almost entirely forgotten.” [Quoted from the introduction to Manchester and the Textile Districts in 1849; edited by Chris Aspin and published by the Helmshore Local History Society in 1972. This volume and a later publication from the same source; The Yorkshire Textile Districts in 1849 are the edited reports of Angus Bethune Reach which were published in the Morning Chronicle.]

Angus Bethune Reach was a Scottish journalist who worked at the Chronicle and the areas he was given for research were Manchester and the textile districts and the Yorkshire woollen districts. Mayhew’s field was London, he left the Chronicle and continued his investigations leading to his master work; ‘London Labour and London Poor’. Reach’s career ended in retirement due to illness in 1854 and eventual death in 1856 and his reports mouldered in the archives, largely forgotten until Chris Aspin resurrected them. It was reading these reports that prompted me to have a closer look at the subject and see how they related to Barnoldswick.

Reach, like Mayhew, was a good investigator. He made it his business to see the places of work and the housing. He questioned his informants, noted their diet and health and sought their opinions on trade, levels of income and iniquity. The picture he paints is one of abject poverty brought about by circumstance over which his subjects had no control. He seems to be genuinely concerned and is not afraid to voice this in his reports. The only hint of prejudice that creeps through is the frequently used pejorative phrase ‘The Low Irish’, he leaves us in little doubt that he views them with a degree of contempt. He also disliked front doors which led directly from the street into the living room. In his opinion a house without a hall or lobby was seriously deficient!

Two things strike me particularly about Reach’s accounts of what he found. The first is that apart from general comments on the quantity and wholesomeness of food, he makes no allusion to adulteration. This could well be that he was not aware that it was happening. I cannot imagine him keeping silent unless this was the case. The other is that he actively pursued a line of enquiry which I have never seen investigated in such depth in contemporary accounts. He asks direct questions of his informants, pharmacists and medical men about the use of soporific drugs, both by adults as a substitute for alcohol and their use as ‘pacifiers’ to make child care easier. It is this evidence I wish to concentrate on.

Our biggest problem when we look at the subject of drug use is that we immediately think of it as a serious and illegal social problem. The first thing we have to do is adjust our mind-set and try to see the subject through the eyes of an 18th or 19th century observer so a few facts might be in order.

It was not until the passing of the Dangerous Drugs Act in 1920, aimed particularly at opiates, that over the counter sales of what we now regard as ‘illegal drugs’ were stopped. From ancient times, and certainly in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries Opium and its derivatives were highly regarded as efficaceous in medicine, desireable as a substitute for alcohol and conducive to the achievement of higher realms of thinking. Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859) wrote of “the marvellous agency of opium, whether for pleasure or for pain”. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) wrote Kubla Khan in a dream-like trance while under its spell. Until the nineteenth century, the majority of opiates used medicinally or recreationally took the form of crude opium and its derivatives. Opium is a complex chemical cocktail containing numerous alkaloids. These opiate alkaloids are still of inestimable value because they reduce or abolish pain without causing a loss of consciousness. They also relieve coughs, spasms, fevers and diarrhoea.

A significant advance in opium processing occurred in the sixteenth century. Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1490-1541), better known as Paracelsus, claimed: "I possess a secret remedy which I call laudanum and which is superior to all other heroic remedies". He concocted Laudanum [literally: “something to be praised”] by extracting opium into brandy, thus producing, in effect, tincture of morphine. In 1680, Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) standardised laudanum in the now classic formulation: 2 ounces of opium; 1 ounce of saffron; a drachm of cinnamon and cloves - all dissolved in a pint of Canary wine. In 1805 a German pharmacist called Wilhelm Sertürner isolated Morphine from Opium and named it Morphium - after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. It was believed for a long time that morphine was not addictive, indeed as late as the early years of the 20th century, missionaries in China gave what became known colloquially as ‘Jesus Pills’ to opium addicts to wean them off their habit, the principle ingredient was morphine. In 1874, an English pharmacist, C. R. Alder Wright, boiled morphine and acetic acid to produce diacetylmorphine. This was synthesized and marketed commercially by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer and in 1898 they launched the best-selling drug of all time, Heroin. The year before, Bayer formulated Aspirin, and launched this on the world market.

So, until 1920, all these drugs were available over the counter. Anyone could purchase them, even young children doing the shopping for their mother. The most common of these soporifics was Laudanum. If you walked into a chemist’s shop in Barlick at any time before 1920 you could have obtained Laudanum or one of the proprietary medicines that contained it without comment. Some of these medicines survived into our time, I can still remember going into Elmer’s and asking for kaolin and morphine for diarrhoea. Also freely on sale until the 1950s was the proprietary medicine Dr J Collis Brown's Chlorodyne, “for coughs and colds”. Containing laudanum, tincture of cannabis, and chloroform, it readily lived up to its claims of relieving pain, as a sedative, and for the treatment of diarrhoea.

Remember that in the period we are considering one of the greatest everyday problems that afflicted the whole of the population was pain. The state of medicine was primitive and the only analgesics available for both rich and poor were the ‘soporific drugs’, usually alcohol and opiates. The public perception of these was completely different than ours. These drugs were friends and comforters and it is not surprising that they were universally and freely available.

As is always the case, human ingenuity found other uses for opiates. One old penny spent on Laudanum produced more comfort and relief from everyday life than a penny spent on alcohol and there is plenty of evidence that the poor used it as a substitute for strong drink. In a world where pain and misery were commonplace, the use of opiates in the search for oblivion was the cheapest means of escape.

In the Old Bailey Proceedings; Humphrey Parsons , Session II, Friday 15th January 1731 there appeared the following advertisement, dated Friday 4th December 1730: Dr. Godfrey's General Cordial. So universally approved of for the CHOLICK, and all Manner of PAINS in the BOWELS, FLUXES, FEVERS, SMALL-POX, MEASLES, RHEUMATISM, COUGHS, COLDS, and RESTLESNESS in Men, Women, and Children, and particularly for several Ailments incident to Child bearing Women, and Relief of young Children in breeding their Teeth.
This ‘General Cordial’ was a mixture of treacle, laudanum and sassafras or some other flavour and despite the long list of ailments it was supposed to relieve, it was the universal weapon of choice for alleviating ‘restlessness’ in children. Next week we shall look at how it was used and the circumstances that made it necessary.

SCG/15 July 2005.
1673 words.

No picture this week.
Stanley Challenger Graham
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Re: DRUGGED TO DEATH PART 1

Post by Stanley » 11 Oct 2016, 03:23

Bumped.
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Re: DRUGGED TO DEATH PART 1

Post by Whyperion » 19 Apr 2017, 20:27

‘restlessness’ in children.
ADHD ?

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Re: DRUGGED TO DEATH PART 1

Post by Stanley » 21 Apr 2017, 04:24

No, they were working terribly long hours and sleeping kids were good kids as far as parents were concerned. Read the piece, it applied to the child-minders as well.
Stanley Challenger Graham
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scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Whyperion
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Re: DRUGGED TO DEATH PART 1

Post by Whyperion » 21 Apr 2017, 11:57

It was how I read specifcally
'"alleviating ‘restlessness’ in children"
on ADHD- probably one for the science, has anyone found a link between ADHD and levels of testosterone ( or maybe not levels as such but how it is 'controlled' by the body with respect to the nervous system ? )

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Stanley
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Re: DRUGGED TO DEATH PART 1

Post by Stanley » 23 Jan 2018, 04:25

Bumped
Stanley Challenger Graham
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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