Drugs in America: Friend or Foe?

Einstein’s D. Samuel Gottesman Library is hosting another National Library of Medicine (NLM) traveling exhibition, “Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions.”

The current NLM exhibit at the library
The current NLM exhibit at the library
The exhibit chronicles the use of mind-altering drugs throughout the history of the United States, and explores the factors that have influenced the shift in social acceptance,  along with public policies surrounding their use.

Viewers can learn about the evolution of perceptions of select mind-altering drugs in American society, from tobacco and alcohol to opium, cocaine and marijuana. While some of these substances were originally touted as tonics or miracle cures and were commonly prescribed by health professionals, or were accepted as innocuous indulgences and consumed without any restrictions, changes in classifications over time have led them to be labelled as controlled, or outlawed altogether.

On a series of display panels, the exhibition portrays how this continuing shift reflects not only change in public awareness of new facts concerning a particular drug, but also how these perceptions are often shaped by sociopolitical factors. The text in the panels is aptly accompanied by archival pictures, including vintage advertisements for cocaine and opium as medicine, and anti-cocaine and marijuana posters.

“This is the ninth NLM traveling exhibit that we’ve hosted since 2010,” said Aurelia Minuti, head of reference and educational services at Einstein’s library. “The exhibits cover a range of topics and issues framed by the history of medicine, and we feel they provide interesting insights for our Einstein community.”

When asked how the exhibits are received by library patrons, she noted: “In general, they seem to find the NLM exhibits engaging and informative. With this one, some older individuals have commented that they remember when cocaine drops were being prescribed for toothaches and how Camel cigarettes ads featured physicians.”

“Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions” is on display during library hours through Saturday, January 21, 2017. For more information on the various traveling exhibits, visit the NLM Exhibition Program website.

 

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