High times: The Victorian doctor who promoted medical marijuana

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Medical Marijuana received a try-out in Victorian Britain because of William O’Shaughnessy

Paul Fearn/Alamy Inventory Picture

ON THE night of 6 November 1838, William Brooke O’Shaughnessy obtained an pressing word from the hospital the place he labored. Might he come instantly? One in all his sufferers was exhibiting “very peculiar and formidable” signs. Alarmed, he rushed to the person’s bedside.

O’Shaughnessy, assistant surgeon with the East India Firm’s Bengal Medical Service, had cause to fret. The affected person was one of many first human guinea pigs in his pioneering experiments with hashish. Just a few hours earlier, the person had been given a modest dose of hashish resin dissolved in alcohol. What might need gone improper?

To a scientifically inclined doctor based mostly in India, hashish – or Indian hemp – was a chief candidate for investigation. It was common as a method of intoxication, however native docs additionally valued it as a remedy for a variety of illnesses. In 1813, considered one of O’Shaughnessy’s predecessors reported considerably sniffily on the intemperate habits of those that indulged within the numerous preparations. However O’Shaughnessy believed hashish would make a helpful addition to Western drugs and determined to place it to the take a look at.

O’Shaughnessy wasn’t simply a physician: he was additionally a talented analytical chemist with a contemporary method to medical analysis. He had made a giant impression together with his meticulous analyses of blood and excreta from folks with cholera throughout an outbreak in England in 1831. He confirmed that sufferers had been dangerously dehydrated and that bloodletting – then normal remedy – did extra hurt than good. Two years later, O’Shaughnessy landed a job with the East India …



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