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Victorian Drugs: Drugs Used in the 1800s

Victorian Drugs: Drugs Used in the 1800s

It may sound unbelievable, but people had little to no restrictions regarding purchasing and using drugs during the 1800s. In the early and mid-Victorian (Britain) ages, people could purchase drugs without a prescription, including popular drugs like laudanum, cocaine, opioids, and arsenic. Usually, the drugs were used to create home remedies and, of course, for those who were bored or experimenting with the side effects that followed ingesting these Victorian drugs.  

Drugs in the Victorian Era 

Drug use in the 1800s was an insight into the future opioid crisis, amongst other highly addictive drugs. Opium and its derivatives were used for medical and recreational purposes by commoners and well-known, respected individuals such as Thomas De Quincy, who was popular during the romantic era as an English writer. Opium would often be consumed through pills or pellets. The drug was highly in demand since its effects reduced intense pain.  

What was laudanum? The substance was a tincture or an alcoholic solution containing morphine, extracted from opium and used to relieve pain. Of all the Victorian drugs, laudanum was the most misused opium derivative. It’s referred to as the “aspirin of the nineteenth century.” It was used throughout the 1800s and restricted in 1914, thanks to the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act.  

Famous opium users who used laudanum as painkillers included Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Elizabeth Barret Browning. Since the drug was easily accessible, many individuals were psychologically and physically dependent on opium and its derivatives. These individuals may have experienced the substance's adverse effects, including dysphoria, itchy skin, constipation, respiratory depression, and xerostomia (dry mouth). 

How Common Were Hallucinogenic Drugs in the 1800s? 

Victorian drugs commonly used for their hallucinogenic or psychedelic effects were found in Mescaline. Mescaline is naturally occurring and is found in numerous species of cacti. Notably, the peyote cactus played a significant role in medicinal rituals, especially in the Native American culture. Mescaline is a serotonin receptor agonist, boosting positive mood and relaxation. The drug is less potent than LSD, which makes it a more mild hallucinogenic.  

Cannabis (THC) was popular and used in teas and holistic remedies. Cannabis was smoked and ingested as well, but the effects were less hallucinogenic unless a person consumed a high dosage at one time. Still, side effects included altered senses like seeing vivid colors, changes in mood, altered sense of time, and delusions. These 19th-century drugs were used for an extended period and are still used today.  

Addiction Treatment at Banyan Pompano  

At Banyan Treatment Centers Pompano, we offer opiate addiction treatment, in addition to addiction treatment for prescription pills and other addictive drugs like cocaine. From cognitive-behavioral therapy and biofeedback therapy to our Faith in Recovery program, we have the necessary resources and services you need to make a full recovery. Our medical staff is prepared to guide you through the treatment process in a safe environment effectively.   

Speak to a specialist at our Pompano Beach drug rehab by calling 888-280-4763 and asking about our outpatient program to get started on the path to recovery today! 


Related Readings:  

Sedative Abuse Symptoms 

Social Model of Addiction 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.