Drugs - the Sixties

By Jeff Little
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"Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll …and drugs" could have easily been the slogan for the 60's.

The abuse of drugs was one of focal concerns of life at that time, and it is one of the first things people think of when they remember that decade.

Most popular of the recreational drugs was marijuana. Though used by some as a culinary surprise, marijuana was ingested by most in the form of smoke. Users would light-up using a conventional pipe (like Fred MacMurray smoked on My Three Sons), in a hookah or bong (two types of pipes which incorporate water), or most commonly in a hand rolled form resembling a cigarette. Such "cigarettes" were often referred to as a "joint", "spliff", "bone", "doobie", "reefer" or "Hey, gimme that!" While marijuana itself was sometimes called "pot", "weed", "herb", "smoke", "reefer", "Mary Jane" or "Hey, gimme that!"

Also prevalent in the 60's was abuse of cocaine. Though not as popular as marijuana, "coke" had advantages for those who wanted to distort their perception of the world without the reddening of the eyes, coughing and general lethargy associated with "the killer weed". Sometimes injected intravenously, but usually ingested by sniffing it up the nose, the powdered drug's general effect is similar to that of most amphetamines (also known as "speed") and allegedly produces a feeling of euphoria. And speaking of "speed"…

"Speed" was what most users called any drug from the amphetamine family, and its name aptly describes its effect. "Speed" races the metabolism and, like cocaine, can be ingested in many ways. Though also available in powdered form, most amphetamines abused in the 60's came in pills or capsules. But what did you do after a long, hard day of eating "speed" when you wanted to get some sleep and all you could do was shiver?

Barbiturates were widely-abused in the 1960's. Known to many as "downs" or "downers", barbiturates (which usually came in capsules or pills) also matched their slang terms when it came to their effects. But when people wanted to really come down, there was a much more potent alternative.

Heroin, though used for decades before the 60's, ironically reached new heights of popularity during an era that is now associated with peace and love. Having little to do with peace or love, the highly-addictive opiate was usually taken intravenously. This practice was called "shooting-up" and heroin itself was known as "smack", "horse", or the more appropriate "poison". This insidious drug exacted an alarming death toll before the decade's close.

Considered by many to be the polar opposite of heroin was a drug most closely associated with the culture of the 60's: LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). This mood-altering substance was discovered in 1938, used by various covert organizations as an interrogation tool, and was valued recreationally (in liquid or pills) for the hallucinogenic episodes ("trips") it induced. Most commonly known as "acid", a reference to the drug can be heard on the soundtrack from Woodstock when the stage announcer warns the crowd, "Don't take the brown acid."

Not taking drugs at all would have been a good idea in the 60's…as it is today. Taken as a doctor recommends, many substances are truly "miracle drugs", but with all the recreational junk that occasional surfaces in society, it's a "miracle" that any of us are still alive.

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