Dangerous Drugs That Used To Be Legal: Are Antidepressants Next?

cocaine advertisementI was (pleasantly!) surprised by how much positive feedback surrounded last week’s post, Antidepressants Don’t Work for Most People, Doctors Agree, so I thought it might be fun to continue the theme and take a look at some crazy dangerous drugs that used to be legal. This type of trip (no pun intended) down memory lane makes it a little easier to fathom the idea that some of the drugs on the market right now might not be the best thing for us. (Hey, less than 60 years ago meth was prescribed to treat depression! So this post isn’t too far-fetched!)

Quick time-out

As with all of my other neuropharmacology posts, I want to throw a big disclaimer out there and say that not all drugs are “bad” and not everyone can get by with just saying prayers and eating apples. So it’s important to respect the medical decisions of your family and friends – but it’s also important to stay educated and informed. The end goal is effective treatment plans that cause the least amount of harm, period. My motivation in sharing these posts comes from an increasing amount of research showing that diet, exercise and spiritual involvement might just be the best way to go!

As for how all this psychology stuff fits in with the rest of Prayers and Apples‘s healthy lifestyle posts? Easy: One in ten Americans currently takes antidepressants (between 2005-2008, antidepressants were the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages!). So it’s an issue that affects over 30 million people. Secondly, a healthy lifestyle has been shown to be just as effective, if not more so, in treating many cases of depression. (Check out some of the studies in Exercise and Mood: The Basics!) And third, a lot of these antidepressants are causing a lot of unpleasant side effects that are severely impairing people’s health. So that’s why I like to bounce from topic to topic :) (For more information, check out the philosophy page!)

Ok, so without further ado, here’s a look at some dangerous drugs that used to be legal!

Oh no – wait! Just a lil bit more ado: Yes, I typed a second “s” after Apples and yes, I know most of you thought that was a typo. But I actually feel really strongly about including a second “s” after singluar possesive nouns! (Hey, if you can’t vent about random, dorky pet peeves on your own blog, where do you have left?! lol) Both forms are acceptable, but The Chicago Manual of Style actually prefers “Prayers and Apples’s.” So there ya go lol :)

Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

Dangerous Drugs That Used To Be Legal

heroin advertisement

1. Heroin

Got a cough? What about a cold? If you lived in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, chances are your doctor might suggest a lil heroin to do the trick. (The UK Times even ran an article as late as June 14, 1955 arguing “The Case for Heroin”!) Originally created to replace morphine, heroin made its debut in 1874 – but wasn’t outlawed until almost 50 years later.

2. Opium

Not only was opium once used on babies during teething (can’t get much worse than that, right?), doctors used to mix alcohol and opium – called “laudanum” – and prescribe this “medicine” for pain relief!

3. Meth (a.k.a. Methamphetamine)

Worried about your antidepressants causing unpleasant side effects? Imagine the poor people only 60 years ago who were prescribed meth to treat depression! In the 1950’s, legally manufactured tablets (under the name, “Methedrine”) were available everywhere! It wasn’t until the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that methamphetamine use was finally restricted.

*Not so fun fact: The FDA has approved methamphetamine hydrochloride (“Desoxyn“) to treat ADHD. And obesity :(

(To get technical, check out this article in the Journal of Attention Disorders – to get non-technical, check out Wikipedia!)

4. Cocaine

Think meth had the depression market cornered? Think again. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (featured by the National Institutes of Health’s website – so this is legit, folks), cocaine was also a popular depression medication back in the day! First isolated from cocoa leaves in 1885, cocaine had a good run – until 1914 when the Harrison Act officially banned cocaine-containing patent medications. That means for 29 years, patients were being prescribed coke! (Hey, Prozac’s only been around 25 years – just sayin’…)

*Fun fact: Prozac made its debut in January 1988 – around the same time as the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” song :) lol

5. Ecstasy (MDMA)

I know I’m giving psychopharmaceutical drugs a hard time, but seriously – you can’t make this stuff up! Ecstacy – which wasn’t outlawed until 1984! – didn’t gain popularity until the 1970’s when biochemist, Alexander Shulgin, suggested that the drug would help patients relax and better relate with their therapist.

Yep. Ecstasy will do that…

6. LSD

Like all the great ones, the “first hope for LSD was that it could be used as a powerful psychiatric drug.” Sigh. I think we all know how this one turned out. Too bad it took everyone about 30 years to catch on.

So there you have it…

More reasons than you’ll ever need to shoot down the argument,

“But it’s ok because my doctor prescribed it!”

There’s no way of knowing 100% what’s going to happen, but if I had to place money on it, I’d say that 50 years from now some of the most common drugs prescribed today for depression, anxiety and a wide range of other mental health ailments (helllllooo, Adderral!) will be making a list just like this – and our children (or grandchildren!) will be sitting around going, “What on earth were they thinking?!

So until then – instead of popping a pill, consider saying a prayer and eating an apple ;)


Please leave a comment!

PS. For more on this subject, check out my MindBodyGreen.com article: It’s Ok, My Doctor Prescribed It: 5 Drugs That Used to Be Legal!


♥ Images Source (I highly recommend scrolling through the rest of the pictures on this page!)

Castle, L., Aubert, R.E., Verbrugge, R.R., Khalid, M. & Epstein, R.S. (2007 May). Trends in medication treatment for ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 10 (4): 335–342.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Antidepressant Use in Persons Aged 12 and Over: United States, 2005-2008.

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (1999). Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders. Treatment Improvement Protocol Series, 33.

Chicago Manual of Style Online. Possessives and Attributes.

Duffy, J. (2006 January 25). When Heroin Was Legal. BBC News: UK.

J, N. (2013 June 7). Illegal Drugs that Used to be Legal. Buzzle. Retrieved: August 8, 2013.

Narconon International. Cocaine History. Retrieved: August 8, 2013.

Narconon International. Ecstacy History. Retrieved: August 8, 2013.

Narconon International. History of Heroin. Retrieved: August 8, 2013.

Narconon International. Methamphetamine History. Retrieved: August 8, 2013.

NPR. (2008 December 31). Remembering 1988, The Year Prozac Was Born. Retrieved: August 7, 2013.

Smashing Tops. (September 8, 2011). 10 Illegal Drugs that Used to be Legal. Retrieved: August 7, 2013.

Treatment Solutions. (2010 October 27). The History of LSD. Retrieved: August 7, 2013.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Medication Guide: Desoxyn. Retrieved: August 8, 2013.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2010 January 1). Postmarket Drug Safety Information for Patients and Providers.


  1. Sharon says

    Great information. I think you’re on the money how dangerous a slope these drugs are today that more than likely will be found quite dangerous 20 yrs down the road. Also I am a big fan of the ‘s. lol

    • says

      Thanks! I feel like questioning the effectiveness/dangers of antidepressants can sometimes seem ‘crazy’ – and ppl make a good point: these are DOCTORS, they should know what they’re talking about! The thing is, there are plenty of doctors saying the same things we talk about on this blog: sometimes medicines don’t do what we thought they were going to do (or they cause harm that we didn’t think they would cause). So I wanted to draw an analogy that would make it easy to see that sometimes even doctors make mistakes! :)

  2. says

    Hi Jessica!
    Your topic got my attention!I am the co founder of CROSSFIRE, a sports ministry using basketball to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ locally,nationally,and around the World!The Lord has opened the doors for us to minister in 63 countries and 45 states.We play universities,colleges,prisons,international teams and we share our testimonies and the Gospel message to the fans and audiance.We speak in churches,schools,and conduct summer camps for youth!A part of my testimony is the Lord using Christ centered counnseling and the medication and of course prayer to help me.!I have taken antidepressants for probably 20 years for OCD and depression.I have had the scan that Dr. Amens talked about that showed where the lack of brain function came from.I would prefer not to have to take them but in my case I believe the Lord provided this as a help!I also exercise and eat very healthy.Do you know of any doctors that know medication and the natural that I might talk to.Our web site is down right now unfortunately.Are you a Bible believing born again christian.Would like to talk with you if you have anymore knowledge on this subject.

    Randy Shepherd
    Co founder of Crossfire Ministries
    828 423 6599

  3. says

    The entire time that I was reading this, my mouth was open! This really is crazy (cool) information. I had no idea about some of them.
    It’s so proof positive that leading a healthy lifestyle would cut down on most medications. My mom takes so many, but I know that if she would lose some weight that she would eliminate some of them. Especially for her knees.
    You’re always so informative Jessica! :)

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