I completed a series of articles concerning the History of Recreational Drugs, based off of previous articles I have written, including Looking Beyond the Haze. They have been published on Suite101, one of my main writing sites.
Whenever I look into this particular area, it strikes me how most illegal substances began either as misunderstood natural chemicals or as something in a lab, usually military, that escaped into the public domain. LSD is the perfect example. The government was testing it for military use against enemies (Happy Nazi drinking water?!) and a psychologist decided that altered consciousness with a defined dose that a synthetic drug could offer may increase our knowledge of the brain. Timothy Leary was that man and after a lot of self-experimentation got lost in the hippie movement.
Psychologists have a history of being, ahem, ahead of their times. Sigmund Freud swore that cocaine could ease depression. Unfortunately, this statement was made without knowing the chemical and physiological basis of its actions. Turns out that yes, it can ease depression symptoms...temporarily, by increasing the heart rate and basically giving someone a shot akin to a super mega dose of triple espresso.
That reminds me of the fact that Coca Cola once had cocaine in its formula. And 7up once contained lithium as well, created with the idea of enhancing one's mood...and you all thought that was the job of the bubbles! (Yes, I checked the facts on snopes! I'd hate to be spreading misinformation).
My first article was on The Origins of Marijuana, which is linked continuously with parts 2-4: heroin, psychedelics, and cocaine.