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The Rocky Road to a "Drug Free Tennessee": A History of the Early Regulation of Cocaine and the Opiates, 1897-1913

Jeffrey Clayton Foster
Journal of Social History
Vol. 29, No. 3 (Spring, 1996), pp. 547-564
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3788945
Page Count: 18
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The Rocky Road to a "Drug Free Tennessee": A History of the Early Regulation of Cocaine and the Opiates, 1897-1913
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Abstract

In nineteenth-century Tennessee, as in the rest of the South, opium and cocaine constituted an integral part of the pharmacopoeia and were widely administered by doctors. Due at least in part to this accepted position in medical culture, usage of these drugs was tolerated by the upper and middle classes. Toward the end of the century, however, Tennessee doctors began to attack the drugs, particularly opium. Soon thereafter, the legislature forbade the purchase of cocaine without a prescription. Although the legislature repeatedly attempted to treat opium in the same manner, these efforts were unsuccessful for many years. Some historians have contended that this "cocaine-first" regulative pattern resulted from legislators' fear that blacks, who were thought to be the primary users of the drug, would go on violent rampages while under its influence. This article, however, argues that regulation occurred as it did because both black and white members of the lower classes, by using cocaine openly during the 1890s, rejected the dominant white culture's norm of private drug use that had grown up alongside the drugs' acceptance in medical culture. When this rejection occurred, cocaine quickly fell under the power of the dominant culture. However, opium, by its nature a more introspective drug, better fit the dominant norm; and thus it resisted regulation much longer.

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