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Cocaine, morphine, and opium are now considered illicit substances, but a hundred years ago they were common household remedies. Even in America, where regulations were typically stricter than in England, Illustrationmany medicine cabinets contained elixirs made from powdered heroin. Why would the conservative Victorians use highly addictive narcotics as medicine? Given the primitive state of medical technology, masking pain while the body attempted to heal itself was the only attractive option. Not surprisingly, more than a third of American families would experience the death of a child in an age when a popular cure for whooping cough was a trip to a gas manufacturing plant to inhale the fumes. Aspirin was invented in 1899, and remains one of the few legitimate remedies to emerge from the myriad bogus "patent medicines" that flooded the nation around the turn of the century.

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