Drugs: Then and Now

Our project is concerned with the Psychiatric Bulletin, a collection of informational magazines that address various aspects of psychiatry, from jealousy in children to prejudice as a disease. In the bulletin, many of the articles address issues that we today would not consider diseases and outlines the cause, prevention, and treatment of the “disease”. Since the Psychiatric Bulletin covers such a wide range of topics, we decided to focus on one topic that appeared frequently throughout the nine volumes we had access to, the concept of drugs and drug abuse. We are going to analyze how drug use and abuse were portrayed in the 1960s, the purpose that drugs served in different fields of medicine, and the rationale that some psychiatrists had to explain drug addiction. The articles place an emphasis on the social and cultural aspects of drug addiction aside from the biological reasoning behind it, and our project will be examining these aspects as well.


Picture featured in an article we will be analyzing in the Psychiatric Bulletin. This is a visual depiction of drug-induced psychosis. 

We will be constructing an informational brochure accompanied with a short video illustrating how exactly the culture of drug abuse was like in the 1960s. We thought a brochure would be appropriate because it is similar to the form of the archive materials, and the video would enhance the teaching aspect of the project. Our project is meant to aid in professional research, and is targeted towards medical humanities researchers interested in how drug addiction was created and viewed in the past. Hopefully our project will provide them with new information about drug addiction in the past and a new perspective on modern forms of drug abuse treatment, to ultimately facilitate drug abuse treatment nowadays and to employ the use of drugs in an effective way when necessary for treatment of other diseases.


Breakdown of several different types of barbiturates. We will be analyzing an article about barbiturates in the 1960s. Image

We are planning on also covering the differences between drug culture in the past and in the present day. To do this, we will need to conduct some outside research beyond the archive materials provided by the Woodson and search for articles similar to the format of the articles in the Psychiatric Bulletin, but that were published relatively recently. We are anticipating to find noteworthy differences between the treatment of drug abuse in the past and the present and are hoping to relay these differences in our project to provide new insight about this topic to medical humanities researchers and interested students. By understanding the treatment of drug addiction in the past, researchers and professionals in the healthcare industry will be able to further enhance treatment of drug addiction in the present day. The 1960s were a time of hard-scale drug usage, and substance abuse is still a very prevalent problem in today’s society, and hopefully we will be able to connect the two time periods to analyze the culture of drug abuse through history.


2 thoughts on “Drugs: Then and Now

  1. Hi!
    The approach that you are suggesting to take with your archive project seems like it would work well. The brochure would be easily-accessible, and the viewer would be able to easily search for any information he or she wants to look for. However, I’m confused as to what the short video will about. What will be in the video? Will it have information that isn’t in the brochure, or will the information be repeated from the brochure? Also, what I think is very interesting about your project is that you guys plan on comparing and contrasting drug culture in the past and present day. Due to the different societal norms in the past versus the present, drug culture is extremely different from what it used to be. What was acceptable back then for medical treatment may be considered unethical to use now. I am interested to see how the treatment of drug addiction in the past differs from what the healthcare industry uses today. Best of luck with your project!


  2. Hi Erica!
    Your multimedia project homing in on drug usage and drug abuse seems to be very easily adaptable to the audience of the 21st century. The entire discussion on how drug abuse is recognized sympomatically and treated then and now is indeed an intriguing topic. However, I would like to ask if your main purpose in the delivering the information to the research group is merely to “transfer” the 1960’s view on drug usage, or if you will be critiquing or commending the view, granted how drug usage is currently dealt with, in any way. In other words, in trying to serve the purpose of facilitating effective use of drugs today, what specific aspects about drug usage culture will you be pointing out? Could you discuss the psychiatrist-patient relationship, or the people usually diagnosed with drug abuse, then?
    Furthermore, I understand that your primary audience is medical humanities researchers. While this seems to be a very relatable audience, perhaps you could find a specific project that the medical humanities field is working on currently? For example, if a major current study in the field of medical humanities is, say, recreational use of marijuana, you could point out “drug abuse” cases recorded in your archive. In other words, I feel that specifying the target audience and their current objective, even further, could help you decide which aspects of your archive you should emphasize.
    Super excited to see your final outcome!


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