10 Drugs That You Won’t Believe Used to Be Legal


Most of us are familiar with the dangers of illegal drugs. According to a report by Philadelphia drug rehab centers, along with the risk of addiction, severe health problems and other unwanted side effects, there is also the danger that a drug user will face punishment if caught. Depending on the drug and area, this punishment can involve anything from a warning to a lengthy jail sentence. But things weren’t always that way. Many drugs that are severely restricted today were once commonplace and completely legal. In fact, not only were these drugs available, they were actually recommended and promoted by healthcare professionals, often with unfortunate results. Here are ten of them:

10. Opium

Its usage is much older, but this form of dried juice from the opium poppy became popular in the United States during the 19th Century. Back then, it was freely prescribed by doctors and even available at grocery stores. Chinese laborers had brought the practice of opium smoking to the West during the mid-nineteenth century, and laudanum, a solution of opium and alcohol, was also popular. Opium was often given to women to treat menstrual cramps and to infants to help with teething pain. Around the turn of the 20th Century, most opium addicts were older women.

San Francisco first banned opium dens in 1875, and California restricted opium possession in 1907.  The 1914 Harrison Narcotics Tax Act effectively outlawed the drug throughout America. Today, drugs derived from the opium poppy, such as morphine and codeine, are legal but heavily restricted.

9. Marijuana


Usage of the cannabis plant, from which the psychoactive drug marijuana is derived, was unrestricted in America until the early twentieth century. In fact, in 1619 a Virginia law required farmers to grow native hemp on their plantations in order to produce textiles! Ironically, given its later reputation, the earliest state to ban the plant was California in 1913. Federal laws passed in 1937 restricted marijuana usage to the medicinal, and later laws in the 1950s introduced mandatory sentencing for possession, with the justification that marijuana was a ‘gateway drug’ into heavier narcotics. However, that hadn’t deterred researchers from finding the middle ground between the addictive nature of the drug and its medicinal properties. Not long after that did researchers discover that a derivative of marijuana, CBD, was not addictive and also had medicinal properties. Today, you can easily get a CBD flower for sale from many stores online.

Medical marijuana is now legal in over a dozen states, although still prohibited by federal law. The current administration has indicated that federal laws involving medical marijuana will not be enforced in these states. (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/07/13/national/main5154550.shtml)

8. Methamphetamine

Pervitin, a methamphetamine brand used by German soldiers during World War II, was dispensed in these tablet containers.

Pervitin, a methamphetamine brand used by German soldiers during World War II, was dispensed in these tablet containers.

Nowadays a popular target for public service announcements, methamphetamine was first created by a Japanese chemist in 1893. In 1944, it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the US to treat a selection of medical conditions including narcolepsy, alcoholism, mild depression, and even seasonal allergies. By the 1950s, this legal medication had become popular under the name of Methedrine, but abuse had also become common. Passed in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act severely restricted its usage, although meth is still available under the name of Desoxyn for very limited uses.

Bad news for the congested: since the 1980s, there have also been strict crackdowns on several legal cold-and-flu drugs that can be used to produce methamphetamine, like ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. These previously over-the-counter medications now often require ID to purchase.

7. Peyote

Lophophora williamsii ies

Mescaline, a hallucinogenic chemical derived from the peyote cactus, has been used by Native American religious ceremonies for thousands of years. Peyote use was outlawed in several US states in the 1920s and 30s, but remained legal in most of the US throughout the 1960s and was often shipped interstate to interested parties.

Mescaline was restricted by Congress under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. Currently, members of the federally-recognized Native American Church are exempt from criminal penalties for peyote use, as long as further state restrictions do not apply.

6. Cocaine

Image result for Cocaine ingredient

Many famous people of the early 20th century, including Sigmund Freud and the Pope, were cocaine users. Although cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which has been in use for at least 3000 years, its modern incarnation only appeared around the 1860s. Available in many forms, including dissolved into wine, it was prescribed by doctors to treat depression and morphine addiction.

In America, it was popular as a treatment for coughs and pain, and was famously included in early versions of Coca-Cola. Although technically restricted by the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act in 1914, prosecution for cocaine usage was rare, and only became common after it was listed a controlled substance in 1970.

5. LSD

Image result for LSD was outlawed in California

The psychedelic effects of LSD, or ‘acid’, were discovered by accident in 1943, after the Swiss scientist who invented the chemical accidentally absorbed some through his skin. During the 1950s the US Army, along with the CIA, researched the uses of LSD as a potential ‘truth drug’ for use in brainwashing. Their experiments involved giving LSD to everyone from CIA agents to prostitutes, and recording the results. Soon, psychiatrists also became interested in its potential therapeutic benefits. Although LSD was still being imported from Switzerland at this time, the drug’s formula could be purchased for a small sum from the US patent office, after which a user could synthesize LSD himself.

In 1966, after widespread abuse and ill-effects caused in part by people making the drug incorrectly, LSD was outlawed in California. In 1970, it was listed by Congress as a Schedule I substance, meaning it has no recognized medicinal or therapeutic uses.

4. GHB

Famous these days as a ‘date rape’ drug, GHB is a naturally-occurring neurochemical that produces a depressant, pain-relieving effect. A lab-made version was synthesized in the 1960s and was used widely in Europe as an anesthetic, particularly in childbirth. In the 1980s, it became popular among body builders as a legal sleep aid, and eventually as a legal recreational drug. After GHB became associated with abuse and accidental deaths, the FDA cracked down on its sale in 1990. It was not listed federally as a controlled substance (illegal to possess as well as to sell) until 2000 when, like LSD, it became a Schedule 1 drug. However, GHB has recently been approved as a heavily-controlled treatment for narcolepsy.

3. Magic Mushrooms

Fruit bodies of the hallucinogenic mushroom Psilocybe semilanceata (Fr.) Kumm. Specimens photographed in Sweden.

Fruit bodies of the hallucinogenic mushroom Psilocybe semilanceata (Fr.) Kumm. Specimens photographed in Sweden.

Also known as shrooms, magic mushrooms are fungi native to Asia and the Americas that contain psilocybin, a compound that produces an LSD-like effect in users. Magic mushrooms have been in use for millennia, but as recently as the early 20th century Western academics were still arguing whether or not they existed. Use among Westerners was popularized in the 1950s after an article on the subject appeared in Life Magazine. In the 1960s, psychologist Timothy Leary and many others promoted these mushrooms for psychological use.

Possession of psilocybin-containing mushrooms was outlawed in 1968. However, since the mushroom spores do not contain psilocybin, spores are still legal in most states.

2. Ecstasy

Alexander Shulgin

Alexander Shulgin

MDMA, or ecstasy, was legal in the United States as recently as 1984. Synthesized and patented in 1912 by a chemist working for pharmaceutical company Merck, it was largely forgotten until the mid 1970s, when Berkeley professor Alexander Shulgin popularized it for use in psychotherapy. Shulgin claimed that it could help psychiatric patients achieve greater introspection and more openness with their therapists. Ecstasy also became popular in non-therapeutic settings, particularly nightclubs, and in 1985 was put under an ‘emergency ban’ and became a Schedule I controlled drug.

1. Heroin

Bayer heroin bottle, originally containing 5 grams of Heroin substance. The label on the back references the 1924 US ban, and has a batch number stamp starting with 27, so it probably dates from the 1920's.

Bayer heroin bottle, originally containing 5 grams of Heroin substance. The label on the back references the 1924 US ban, and has a batch number stamp starting with 27, so it probably dates from the 1920’s.

First synthesized in 1874, heroin was first created as a non-addictive alternative to morphine. The word ‘heroin’ is actually a brand name created by the pharmaceutical company that invented it, Bayer. In the early 20th century, it was also marketed in the US as a treatment for coughs and as a kind of old-fashioned methadone program for morphine users.

Unfortunately, the drug turned out to be more addictive than morphine. Heroin used to be legal, until it became apparent that it is more addictive than morphine, and can cause opiate withdrawal symptoms when its use is abruptly stopped. After hundreds of thousands of Americans saw their sore throats relieved only to be replaced with crippling addiction and long-term stays at a drug rehab program; heroin usage was severely restricted in the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, and outlawed altogether in 1924.

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  1. I think that meth might be considered a justable medication, and help a small number of people in the furture. I mean Colorado just made pot legal period! Maybe not within the next 40/60 years, but in a furture generation that is more responsable, not to mention less careless.

  2. It is interesting to see over time the things that we deem as not legal in regards to drugs. I think it is a good thing because we continue to learn more and more. What I wonder about is what the future holds. What drugs that we currently legal will be banned? Will any be banned? What drugs will there be in the future? Will we be much like today or in 100 years will things be COMPELETLY different in the drug scene? I hope to say that drugs and harmful things for our body will be gone but I know that is foolish to think of.

    • As adults, it is OUR RIGHT to choose to ingest things “harmful to our body” or not! As long as we dont harm others, it is nobody elses place to say what we ingest! WHY isnt alcohol illegal?? It contributes pointedly to THOUSANDS of deaths every year?? Its because when lawmakers attempted to prohibit it, “We the People” wouldnt stand for it! “We the People” have become MUCH MORE compliant over time…which is EXACTLY the behavior that the lawmakers WANT to see!!

  3. Peter Boucher on

    Here is one that will blow your mind !!! Its called a “Brompton Cocktail”. It was a pain suppressant that was created by Dr. Herbert Snow who was a doctor at the Royal Brompton Hospital (Hence, where it got its name) in London, England. Dr Snow invented this concoction in 1896 and had its highest usage among patients during the 1920’s. It was given to terminally ill patients and in the last stages of their life from cancer as well as Tuberculosis patients who were dying from that disease. It contained the following 1). Morphine, 2). Cocaine, 3). Pure Ethyl Alcohol, 4). Thorazine, and 5). Chloroform. My resource and information that I found it was the good ol’ Wikipedia. Look it up and you read about it on the Wikipedia.

  4. Of course…….the US really used to be “free” and people had the “Right” to make their own mistakes…..as long as it didn’t interfere with the Rights of other people. Like. People have the Right to get drunk……they do not have the Right to drive that way as a matter of public safety. Drugs beyond alcohol were made illegal to “advance” the cause(s) of racism. This is particularly perplexing with the “Hypocrit” in Chief in the White House advancing the War on Medical Marijuana after he bragged about using pot & cocaine in his books. I guess hypocrisy abounds when you’re born with a silver spoon in your nose. :o)

  5. Canada Goose Parkas on

    at the beginning, dealers took them for huge profit without considering their harm. though they are iilegal to ude now ,there are still underground trading

  6. Just a point, but a quite a major one: All drugs used to be legal. The idea of regulating or banning natural drugs (marijuana, shrooms, for example) didn’t exist prior to the late 19th century in the west. As far as chemicals extracted from plants and purely synthetic drugs go, they have to exist before they can be banned. As I said, in Europe and North America prohibition is a 20th century phenomenon.

    For a humourous trip (pun intended) through some illegal drugs, I found this on blogspot. http://it-totally-sucks.blogspot.com/2011/09/7-drugs-and-why-they-suck.html

  7. Wow….Never thought some of these were ever legal. The only one that wasn’t surprising to me was marijuana. The rest caught me off guard.

    • The “Free People” of these United States…..used to be under the “Law of Personal Responsibility.” Where a person could walk in to any Pharmacy and say: “I know what I want could KILL ME but as a legal adult in a “free Society,” I accept responsibility for my own actions…….give me what I want!!!”

      NOW…..the “Legislators” (aka, “LAWmakers”) feel that they need to “protect us from ourselves” and/or otherwise, FORCE THEIR moral beliefs upon the American People (aka….TAKING AWAY our “freedom of choice(s)”) and thereby FILL UP the FOR PROFIT Prisons….that were CREATED by & for the PROFITS of the Prisons which were “aided & abetted” by OUR Legislators because of the BRIBES “they” received FROM the LOBBYISTS that WORKED 4 the For Profit Prisons………….!!!

      God Bless Capitalism that is BRILLIANT…………(in theory) but RUINED by CORRUPT Politicians……..

      • There needs to be a separation of business and the state exactly like and for the same reason we have separation of church and state: to allow men to breath free.

      • Hawaiian Punch on

        I know what you mean. Most drugs were available at pharmacies and some from nature. It used to be high purity and run by some scientists and pharmaceutical people. Shrooms and cactus was everywhere too. Now nanny state is trying to “protect” us with the war on drugs failure. That combined with prohibition made gangs fill the void of the Ph D chemist and pharmacists. Now most things are crap quality, but new, better drugs like 2C-I, a-PVP, and even nootropics came “out of nowhere. Aggressive banning is only causing the new drugs appear exponentially. The “war on drugs” just keeps failing more than the marginally small successes they gain. Banning stuff isn’t the answer. Getting balanced facts and not propaganda is the answer. In a free and open society, stuff that is way safer than smokes or booze wouldn’t be banned.

      • 100% ABSOLUTELY ACCURATE!!! Isnt it funny tho, how these same lawmakers dont do ANYTHING about alcohol?! It actually contributes to THOUSANDS of deaths EVERY YEAR!! But, they’ve been down the prohibition road, thus they KNOW IT DOESNT WORK! Just as they ALREADY KNOW that the prohibition of drugs doesnt work either!!! WHY do they continue to pursue this “war on drugs”??? MANY reasons! Not the LEAST of which A LOT of people would be unemployed if it were not for the “war on drugs”! However, the other reasons are MANY and varied. At the end of the day, if you are living in a society that even feels they have the right to tell you whether or not you can terminate your own life when you are terminally ill and suffering horribly…what do you expect?? As long as “We the People” allow them to keep telling us what we CAN and CANNOT do, it will continue! OUR BODIES, OUR LIVES! If we are not harming anyone else with our choices, that is EXACTLY what they should be…OUR CHOICES!!!

  8. Jesse Mcduffee on

    I like the fact that mushroom spores are still legal in most US states. I wonder how easy it would be to grow them. lol. Thanks for the facts and another top ten! Hard to believe Bayer was part of Heroin and that Heroin wasn’t a street drug name to begin with!

    • Shrooms need a certain fertilizer to grow… which is not available anymore in the U.S.

      • whoever told you that fertilizer “crap” is full of it. I can assure you though the process is tedious and requires lost of tlc I can and is being done on the daily. GRow shroomies grow!!!!

  9. GHB is not rohypnol
    Rohypnol doesnt actually exist :O

    getting high is very different from being knocked out unconcious and GHB gets you high :3
    to really sedate someone you’d need over 3000 mg when a normal dose of GHB is 200-500mg so yeah youd be wasting 300 bucks to rape someone, better get a “working Girl” and be done with it for 100 XD