A History Of Getting High

Corinne Redfern

Ever wondered which drugs were trending during the Salem witch trials? Or, which year ecstasy rose to fame? We've made you a drug timeline to document the history of getting high...

1692
The Salem witch trials and ergot

Bewitched… or just high? Ergot, a fungus that forms in old rye bread, causes hallucinations and leaves you feeling stoned – or, err, possessed. No surprise then, that most witch trials occurred in areas where rye was the grain of choice.



1837
Opium

Not yet known for its addictive properties, opium was sold freely – and went by the name of ‘Mother’s Friend.’ It was thought to keep women quiet and calm – and was used to assist during childbirth and 
relieve PMT.



1840
Weed

Cannabis was widely prescribed to cure various illnesses, 
but more so 
for diseases associated with women, such 
as gonorrhoea, uterine bleeding 
and labour pains.



1877
Cocaine

Cocaine was commonly used 
to relieve aches experienced by women, such as cracked nipples, vomiting during pregnancy and painful intercourse.



1920s
Cigarettes

During the 
20s, cigarette manufacturers began to target women in their marketing campaigns. They linked the benefits 
of cigarettes to weight loss, and designed tips that wouldn’t stick 
to lipstick.



1968
Valium (diazepam)

Although a prescription drug, Valium became one of the most overprescribed antidepressants for women. It was used to help them with ‘the daily struggles 
of womanhood’.



1976
MDMA (ecstasy)

Though it has seen a huge resurgence on the club scene in recent years, ecstasy first appeared in popular New York nightclubs such as Studio 54 back in the 70s and early 80s. 
It was created in 1912 as a potential treatment for abnormal bleeding.



1986
Cocaine and crack cocaine

Commonly taken by high-flying business types during this time, a survey in 1986 estimated that a massive 1 in 11 Americans had tried cocaine*. Back in the UK, crack-cocaine addiction was becoming a growing problem.



1990s
LSD

The hallucinogen, which first peaked in the 60s and again in the 70s, once more became a club favourite. Users enjoyed it for its mind-bending 
‘trips’ lasting anywhere from six 
to 14 hours.



2007
Ketamine

Commonly used as 
a horse tranquilliser, ketamine use had been growing year on year with an estimated 90,000 ketamine users in the UK*. As a result, cases of serious bladder problems 
(‘K bladder’) began 
to surface.



2016
NPS

The Home Office says 47,000 women took New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) last year*. Experts warn these ‘legal highs’, which mimic cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana, could kill more users than heroin this year because they can be easily bought online.


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