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Sears & Roebuck Once Sold Opium, Heroin, and Cocaine

Ben Sullivan

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Sears & Roebuck Once Sold Opium, Heroin, and Cocaine

Hard to believe, but in the early 1900s, Sears & Roebuck (along with a number of other stores) sold products made with opium, heroin, and cocaine. 

Until the FDA was established to regulate food and drug safety in 1930, the purchase of dangerous, narcotic medicines was not regulated and nearly as normal and commonplace as buying Aspirin or Tylenol is today.  These substances were bought and sold on the open market by people who were unaware of their harmful (sometimes fatal) side effects.

Imagine waking up at night to give little Billy (a teething baby) a nice spoon full of opium or a new "safer" heroin injection to ease the pain.  If you felt a little groggy, you could get a jolt to start the day from a glass of Coca Wine (a liquid cocaine beverage).  When trying to loose some weight, you could purchase Dr. Rose's Obesity Powder - a fast, "safe," cocaine formula that quickly burned those unwanted pounds, nose tissue, and brain cells.  Try to imagine what must have happened to many of the children and adults that used these.

Even pope Leo the 13th apparently endorsed narcotics at this dark moment in pharmaceutical history: Mariani "Wine" (yet another cocaine beverage) was said to give you immediate health, strength, energy, and vitality (as well as providing a "cure" for the influenza virus).

A heroin kit was available for around $1.50 and came with a syringe, two needles and a carrying case.  Children were given Cocaine Toothache Drops that sold for 15 cents a pack.  Asthma was thought to be cured by inhaling the smoke or vapor of opium.

Which brings us to the current push by marijuana users to legalize the substance around the United States.  If we condone this drug, couldn't we eventually see people fighting for rights to legally use much more harmful drugs like cocaine or even heroin?  By opening these doors it seems like we'd be taking a huge step back from what we've already learned was a really bad idea.