We are familiar with some of the names: William Burroughs in the 1950’s. Timothy Leary in the ‘60’s, Hunter S Thompson in the ‘70’s, those two guys who started the craze for smoking cane-toad venom in ‘90’s. Investigators who became their own guinea pigs.
But “the heroic tradition of discovery”, as Mike Jay puts it, has a much longer and more interesting history. The second half of the Nineteenth Century in particular saw the introduction of most of the substances discussed in this book, and was perhaps the golden age of getting stoned for science.
The problem, of course, is that there is no way of investigating the experiential effects of narcotics, stimulants, analgesics, hallucinogens, etc, except by becoming one’s own subject. Combining introspective investigation with scientific rigour in experiment – what could possibly go wrong? Even Sigmund Freud, who thought that he had discovered a miracle cure-all in cocaine, drifted over from research to recreation, although he never became an addict.
Others were less disciplined.