Consuming (and Not Consuming) Pills

15-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, March 14 , 1911:  I received two handkerchiefs today. There were supposed to be a birthday present, but they happened to be a week ahead of time. Anyway they will answer the purpose. Today was a  bit like yesterday. Nothing of interest transpired. I am so tremendously sleepy. Rastus is asleep, I believe, for those bewitching eyes of hers are closed, and she herself is the very image of innocence and gentleness, when asleep, but the image of a thunderstorm when awake. I bought her a box of pills today, but she had to pay for them. It would be a great economy if she would only buy a bbl. Or even a hhd. of pills, for she can and does consume them in large quantities, and mother does also, but I don’t.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later: 

I flip through a current Marth 2011 issue of Time magazine. It’s chock full of ads for medicines that will help those who are depressed or nervous, can’t sleep, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Some ads mention possible dependency issues—and the potential need to be weaned off the drug.

Have times changed in the past 100 years? In 1911 newspapers and magazines were also filled with ads for medicines that were supposed to cure lots of problems. However,  there was a lot of concern that patent medicines were either worthless or dangerous. 

A hundred years ago laws were just being put into place that regulated drug sales. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was created in 1906. The Harrison Act, which regulated opiates, wouldn’t be passed until 1914.  

In this entry diary Grandma seems be aware of the dangers of drug use—and proud that she doesn’t consume pills like her mother and sister.

An interesting–though unsettling quote–from a 1910 magazine article that supported drug regulation said:

The report [i.e., the proceedings of a conference on Opium submitted to the U.S. Department of State] shows an enormous growth of the vice in rural districts, especially among wives of farmers, caused mainly by the lack of social diversion. It is said that a large percentage of this class who have a sincere objection to the use of alcohol have become morphine fiends.

“The Move Against Opium”, National Foods Magazine (June 1910)

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