Creepy Vintage Drug Ads

Last night Shannon tracked down two episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy at the wonderful (and FAR too underutilized by us "why go to a public library when you can have one of your very own?" book-buying types!) Chicago Public Library - Sulzer branch. We watched the one on medicine yesterday while munching on pizza from Apart.

Once again, as much as I love to study the middle ages and as enamored as I am wiht history, I am so thankful I live when I do. For example, did you know the first surgery performed with anesthesia was in 1842? I can't even have a minor filling filled without 4 gallons of novacaine! Can you imagine having a tumor removed with no anesthesia?

Here are some more vintage medical ads that will make you shake your head in incredulity:

7-Up once contained lithium and amphetamines....

While Coca-Cola contained cocaine.

VERY effective diet plan - if you can stomach it.

Looking at these ads from not so very long ago, I can only wonder what we're doing now that will be looked upon in horror as barbaric practice 50 years from now. At least we've moved on from doping our kids with Nembutal, but belladonna, a poison and strong hallucinogen, is still readily available in eye drop and tablet form. I had looked it up to find a vintage ad, and was more than a little shocked to find it's still widely available to the public, evidenced by the currently available products shown above and below. Belladonna is very important to the practice of medicine as atropine, a derivative of the plant, counteracts many poisons; but I fail to see (pun intended) how belladonna eye drops, aside from those used by ophthalmologists in dilating the pupil in a controlled environment for the purpose of eye examinations, should be available for general use.

Literally meaning "pretty woman," belladonna eye drops were used by women to dilate their pupils, thus making them look more beautiful and more intense. Overuse can blindness, tachycardia, and intense hallucinations.

The above photo is of an herbal or nutraceutical "medication." More and more people are using these products as they are marketed as more safe, more natural than pharmaceuticals approved by the FDA. I am not trying to demonize the nutraceutical industry - there is great benefit to be found there (look at glucosamine/chondroitin!). I just ask that you please Know. What. You. Are. Ingesting. Talk to a pharmacist if you have questions - they're teaching this stuff in pharmacy programs now. If you are taking prescription medications, it is IMPERATIVE that you speak with a pharmacist before taking herbal remedies. Some of the remedies may interact with your medications, just like another prescription could. Some actually intensify your current prescriptions, making your once controlled regimen suddenly dangerousor ineffective. Since they are not subject to FDA approval, there is not always a consistent dose. You could be getting more or less of an hearbal than what you think you are. Another example of a potentially dangerous herbal: ma huang has been used in place of ephedrine (which was taken off the market) by hopeful dieters, causing several deaths. Some people can't take ephedra - their hearts can't take it. Kava kava may cause liver toxicity. St. John's wort may cause little effect in one person, a calming effect in another, and yet can cause a third to go absolutely batty. Again, just because it's herbal, it's NOT NECESSARILY SAFE FOR YOU. Please be careful, and again, know what you are taking.

That goes for your prescription drugs, too, by the way. Know what a normal side effect as opposed to an abnormal one. Do NOT dismiss your concerns in the face of a dismissive doctor. Do not take ANYTHING when you are taking Coumadin, warfarin, or Heparin without talking to your doctor AND your pharmacist. And if you have more than one doctor or go to more than one pharmacy, inform them of eachother so you are not inadvertantly prescribed two similar medications.


Shannon said...

I once took St. John's Wort (I believe by mistake) and I can't tell you how much it messed me up. I remember restless energy, paranoia, and nerous excitement. Ick. Ick. Ick.

Rev Transit said...

So, the St. Johns Wort got in the way of your taking naps? How did it affect ranting?

I could swear the doctor prescribed belladonna for me when I was 12.

OrangeMoJoJo said...

"I could swear the doctor prescribed belladonna for me when I was 12."

Probably! Donnatol, Donnagel, and Levsin are very common meds prescribed for stomach ailments (currently it's being marketed for IBS and Crohn's). They used to, at least, contain belladonna. Now they contain a belladonna derivitive: scopalamine(the other medically valuable derivitive of belladonna is atropine).

Like any prescription, it has its uses, but because of it's opiate-like/hallucinogenic properties, it should be used carefully and should be administered by a physician (like Donnatal), not sold OTC or online (like belladonna tabs). I mean, they're worried about Sudafed and all other medications containing pseudoephedrine, but belladonna-containing products are on the shelf? Seems odd to me....

More vintage med info: scopalamine and morphine used to be administered to women during childbirth to keep them free from pain and to eliminate even the memory of the pain. "Known as twilight sleep, this combination of drugs could cause serious problems. It completely removed the mother from the birth experience and it gravely depressed the baby's central nervous system. This sometimes made for a drowsy depressed baby with depressed breathing capacity. Twilight sleep therefore has fallen entirely out of favor and is now a chapter in the history of obstetrics." (courtesy of medterms.com)

One of the best things about blogging is how much I learn while doing so.