Drugs. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t deny that they’re a deeply entrenched part of our culture, and they’re not going away. But where did all those beautiful, wonderful drugs… er, I mean, horrible, horrible drugs come from?
Well, that’s what we’re here to find out. And when we’re finished exploring the origins of your favorite drug, you can dazzle your fellow stoners with these tales of chemical bliss and become Weed King or whatever the fuck. Anyway, let’s just get to it with the origins of these nine drugs, all of which are classified in the good ol’ US of A as Class I or II narcotics. No one cares about your Sativa addiction, bro.
It’s fitting that we start with weed because, well, it’s just always kind of been here. Since the dawn of history, marijuana has been a part of our lives. I mean, they’ve found it in the tombs of ancient mummies, unearthed burial sites with weed remnants that date back to the third century BC, and there is evidence that it was used by ancient Hindus thousands of years ago. Basically, the weed story is the human story.
Cannabis itself is native to Central and South Asia, so it probably was first sparked there by some caveman who got bored and decided to smoke the plants growing outside. Look, that may sound ridiculous, but you and I both know you tried to smoke banana peels in college, so let’s not judge, okay?
Like weed, opium has been around since man was able to write about it and tell people how awesome it was. It’s specifically believed to have first been used in Mesopotamia as far back as 3400 BC.
Heroin, though, wasn’t cultivated from opium until 1874 by an English chemist named C.R. Alder Wright, who tested it by getting dogs and rabbits high, which was probably pretty fucked up to watch, especially when the dogs started offering to blow him for a fix.
Anyway, Wright didn’t do any real follow-up, and it wasn’t until the early 20th century that a German scientist, Felix Hoffmann, who worked for Bayer, figured out how to make it all on his own. For the next twenty years or so, the drug was actually marketed as a “non-addictive” alternative to morphine, which… whoops! Eventually, it was banned, and the Germans had to move on to other drugs. And as you will soon see, they most definitely did.
Pretty much since people arrived in the Amazon, they started chewing on Coca leaves because they noticed that it did some pretty sick shit. To this day, Coca leaves are a vital part of tribal existence. That’s right, all those Amazonians are all coked up and fighting jaguars and piranhas and shit. It’s like a real-life episode of Archer.
So, people knew about coke for a long time, but they couldn’t quite figure out how to extract it in its pure form from the leaves. It wasn’t until 1855 that a German (of course) scientist named Friedrich Gaedcke figured out how to isolate coke. It wasn’t long before everyone from musicians to Sigmund Freud were doing blow and saying ridiculous shit, especially because back then people actually thought that coke was legit medicine, specifically as an “antidote” to opium and morphine addiction. Do coke in the morning and smack at night. I get it, Sigmund. I get it.
Amphetamines were first created in a lab by a Romanian chemist named Lazar Edeleanu, who was, of course, working for the Germans. It was a Japanese chemist, though, named Nagai Nagayoshi, who first created methamphetamines by synthesizing them from Ephedrine, thus making himself the world’s first Jesse Pinkman.
By the time World War II hit, meth was being sold in pill form, and was infamous for being used regularly by Nazi soldiers and likely by Hitler himself. Yes, the Nazis were basically a giant biker meth gang. After the war, these pills were used as a popular diet pill in America until people started noticed that Betty Draper and her friends were getting hooked on that shit, and it wasn’t long until they were pushed underground and into the amateur labs of bikers and Walter White.
LSD was first discovered in 1938 by Albert Hoffmann, a Swiss chemist looking for “medically useful” new compounds in his lab. Hoffmann didn’t really know what he had discovered until five years later, though, when he accidentally took a whole bunch of that shit. I’m not sure how that happens, but whatever. After tripping balls, Hoffmann – in the name of science, of course – did it again, only this time, it was intentional. From there, testing continued until Sandoz Laboratories marketed it as a psychiatric drug.
This opened the door for the CIA to start testing LSD on people as part of the MKULTRA Project, which saw them slip doses to pretty much anyone they could just so they could see what happened. Yeah. Eventually, a group of academics, led by Timothy Leary, got their hands on it, introduced it to the counterculture and the rest, as they say, is history. Or maybe history is just a construct of your mind, maaaaan.
There is evidence that people have been doing shrooms since literal caveman days, which makes sense. I mean, out of all drugs, this one would be the easiest to discover. You just eat a mushroom and shit gets wild. You can understand why a bunch of cavemen would be into that. I mean, they didn’t even have Netflix.
Everyone from the Sahara to Mexico was tripping on shrooms for thousands of years, but it was still largely under the radar in the West until 1957, when an American banker named R. Gordon Wasson did some shrooms in Mexico and decided to write an article about in Life magazine.
Eventually, Albert Hoffmann – yes, the same Albert Hoffmann who created LSD – got in on the act, isolating the Psilocybin, which essentially explained how and why it got everyone high. From there, it followed a similar path as LSD, as Timothy Leary obtained some samples from Hoffmann and then the hippies got into it, and I think you can fill in the rest yourself.
MDMA was created in 1912 by Anton Kollisch, a – surprise! – German chemist, who was working for pharmaceutical giant Merck. Merck played around with MDMA for a while, but ultimately decided it didn’t really have any legit uses.
The U.S. Army then experimented with MDMA in the 1950s, but never really did much with it either. MDMA as we know it really began to take off when an American chemist named Alexander Shulgin independently created MDMA in his Dow Chemical lab in 1965. Shulgin then sent instructions on how to create it to a dude who owned a lab in Los Angeles, and then that dude sent those instructions to a friend in Chicago, and by 1970, there were reports of people rolling in Chi-Town.
It spread from there to clubs – it was prominent by the time Studio 54 was owning New York – and then sometime in the mid-80s it hit college campuses, and ecstasy has been a part of the college and party experience ever since.
Native American tribes have been doing Mescaline for thousands of years, in the form of Peyote. Mescaline as a compound, though, wasn’t identified until 1897, when a – yup – German scientist, Arthur Heffter, managed to isolate it. In 1919, an Austrian (close enough to German for me) named Ernst Spath, created it in a lab, and it eventually found its way into the cultural underground.
But, unlike some other drugs, Mescaline has often been the drug of choice for academics, thinkers and other spiritual searchers. Aldous Huxley and Hunter S. Thompson were both known for their use of the drug, and their writings helped popularize it. Oh, and Melissa Joan Hart. That’s right, Sabrina the Teenage Witch is on record as saying that she used to do mescaline. Yes, truly a drug for deep thinkers and spiritualists.
Steroids have been used since before steroids were even a thing. I know that doesn’t make any goddamn sense, but hear me out, okay?
In the late 19th century, scientists began testing testicle extract (!) because they knew that the hormones could make people do crazy shit. It’s all about balls, man. Eventually, in 1931, a scientist, who of course was named fucking Adolf (Adolf Butenandt to be exact) managed to isolate and extract androstenone from thousands of liters of piss (really) in his German lab.
Further testing – and the further extract of nad hormones – led to Butenandt and a colleague being awarded a Nobel Prize (for steroids and piss sifting), but they turned it down for Nazi-related reasons.
Those reasons were probably because the Nazis are widely suspected of administering steroids to their soldiers, and yes, Hitler himself, already on meth, started taking them too. Basically, the goddamn Nazis are the godfathers of Big Drug.
Anyway, after the war, the Soviets (and East Germany because, well, duh) began experimenting with steroids in their sports programs, which is where steroids as a performance enhancer and all the bullshit that has followed, from HGH to whatever the fuck Brock Lesnar is on, was truly born.
So, the next time you’re cheering on another home run by some juiced-up freak, just remember, you’re actually cheering Hitler.
Related: What Is The Future Of Marijuana Legalization?
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