Today medical marijuana's the thing, but a century ago, it was medical cocaine and morphine - likewise legal, as long as you had a prescription.

Congress banned the importation of opium in 1905, but didn't prohibit or restrict sale of drugs made from the narcotic itself. Two years later, California took the lead with the Pharmacy and Poison Act of 1907, which required a prescription from a physician, dentist, or veterinary surgeon (!) to buy any product containing opium or cocaine from a drug store.

Trouble was, by 1907 Americans were already hooked. A generation had grown up with myriad bottles and pill boxes in their medicine cabinets that contained some form of opium or cocaine. Laudanum famously became the drug of choice for women with menstrual cramps; children with coughs might be given a sip from a bottle of Heroin, a product made by Bayer. Besides the druggy patent medicines, pharmacists in 1907 were still making their own medicines in the back of the drug store. A druggist recipe book from that period shows that a pill to ease the discomfort of "grip" (flu) might contain as much as 1,500 milligrams of opium. Other common ingredients in those flu pills were quinine, ipecac, belladonna, and sodium salicylate (a base component in aspirin, and which we now know can trigger fatal Reye's Syndrome in children).

The dangers of that easy availability of "dope" is underscored in the second story, where a local toddler finds a box of opium-laced tablets and almost dies of an overdose. Apparently no parenting book of the era warned about the dangers of leaving candy-coated morphine within reach a two-year-old.

Only on Prescription Can Morphine, Cocaine, Etc., Be Sold by Druggists Under New Law

Another of the new laws that has gone into effect will work something of "a hardship" upon those unfortunate persons who have become addicted to a use of morphine, cocaine, and other "dope."

A copy of the law was seen in the office of District Attorney Lea yesterday, and it provides that druggists can no longer sell morphine, cocaine, etc., to persons unless they present a prescription regularly made out by either a practicing physician, dentist, or veterinary surgeon. A heavy penalty will be imposed for infraction of the law.

- Press Democrat, April 20, 1907

Little Son of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Peterson Has a Narrow Escape From Death

The two-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Peterson, who reside near this city, when he grows older will learn that whether it was his childish instinct or not that made him on Wednesday morning toddle over to his mother and prattle to her something about "tandy," thus saving his life. The child had a miraculous escape from death, and only after the most strenuous efforts on the part of the attending physician that he was saved.

While his mother's back was turned John L. Jr., walked into his brother's bedroom climbed up onto a chair and in the course of his investigation of the bureau found some nice looking sugar-coated things in a box that were to him "tandy." He eat [sic] about a dozen of them and then toddled off to find his mother and inform her in baby talk of his discovery. Mrs. Peterson at once investigated and discovered that the child had eaten about a dozen grip capsules.

A short time afterwards she saw that the child was becoming very drowsy and this aroused her suspicions that all was not as it should be, When he came in to lunch Mr. Peterson confirmed his wife's fears, and Dr. Bogle was sent for. When he arrived the physician saw that there was no time to lose. He set to work on the child at once, and kept it up for nearly five hours before he was pronounced out of danger. The tablets the child had eaten contained some opium. It is quite certain but for the child's remark regarding candy the eating of the tablets would have cost him his life. Seeing that he always takes a nap for two or three hours in the afternoon Mrs. Peterson noticing his drowsiness, would have put him in bed and then the effects of the drug would have completed their deadly work. On Wednesday the child was reported to be considerably improved.

- Press Democrat, April 25, 1907


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