Since the 19th century, attitudes to drugs have been in constant flux, argues Victoria Harris, owing as much to fashion as to science.
"Fashion – the cyclical approval of certain intoxicating substances and the disavowal of others – has shaped the entire recorded history of intoxication. In the modern period these cycles have speeded up due to increased globalisation, which has introduced us to substances from other parts of the globe; and increased technology, which has allowed us to create altogether new drugs. Fashion is an important and often overlooked aspect of human culture and is crucial to the history of intoxicating substances. In the western world we have seen crazes for and moral panics against pepper, coffee, chocolate and tea, as well as substances more commonly labelled intoxicants today. Scientists, politicians and businessmen are no more immune to fashion than any other individuals or groups. Together all these actors have at various points in history conspired to create ‘the next big thing’ and ‘the next big killer’."