Timeline of psychoactive drugs

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This is a timeline of psychoactive drugs, focusing on their medical use in anesthesia, pain management, and mental disorders.

Big picture

Time period Development summary
Ancient times The use of natural extracts for medicinal purposes goes back thousands of years.[1] Most likely discovered through a combination of trial and error, early medicines often had as much religious and spiritual significance as they did healing importance. Plants were the basis of the ancient medicines, and were complemented with minerals and animal substances. Often the same plants and herbs were used for similar diseases among different civilizations, even though they were discovered separately.[2]
5th–15th century During the Middle Ages, opium continues to be used and abused in several societies.[3] However, treatment of disease through development of new herbal remedies may have been very difficult in an environment where the prevailing attitude is that disease is God’s punishment for sin. Practitioners of herbal remedies would often be seen as heretics. Medical progress is very weak due to the prevailing unscientific opinion.[2] Nightshade varietals are sometimes used by medicine men and women who would be later accused of witchcraft. Drugs include datura, henbane, belladonna, and the mandrake root.[4]
14th–17th century During the Renaissance, the development of medicinal remedies in Europe is reborn. In the 15th century, Italian anatomists use opium to sedate prisoners before performing dissections on them.[3] Paracelsus brings opium into the European pharmacopoeia in the early 16th century, and also develops the modern concept of dose dependency for drug action and toxicity.[2]
18th century In sharp contrast to ancient times, in the 18th century, while only a few substances survive and retain the cultural uses (like some tribes in Australia, the Amazon rainforest, etc.), many substances sift to a non–socially accepted pattern of abuse and dependence. Addiction becomes a global public health problem. China recognizes opiums addictive potential, alcoholism appears in European working class, psychiatry matures into a scientific discipline, and influential physicians write about compulsive drinking.[5]
19th century There are no legal restraints on the use of opiates in either country throughout the century.[4] During the mid to late century, many manufacturers proudly proclaim that their products contain cocaine or opium.[6] However, addiction is a main focus of research. The first medical journals of addiction appear.[5]
20th century Like many consumer items, in the 20th century psychoactive drugs become globalized, commoditized, mass produced, marketed, regulated, licensed, and consumed in variety and numbers higher than any other time in history.[7] At the turn of the century, hundreds of patent medications are available, many loaded with opium, morphine, cocaine, Cannabis, and alcohol.[4] Throughout the years, the rapid increase in knowledge sees the formation of a disease concept of addiction which includes the psychosocial and neurolobiological foundations and consequences of addiction.[7] Diagnostic classifications, neurobiological and genetic research, and classification of drugs into stimulants, inebriants, hallucinogens, euphoriants and hypnotics merge.[5]
21th century Technological advances apply to a broad research in psychoactive drugs. Genomics, pharmacogenomics, neuroimaging, molecular neurobiology, and neurogenetics merge.[5]

Full timeline

Year Event type Details Geographical location
50,000 years ago Neanderthal burial site in Iraq is found to contain remains of the herbal stimulant ephedra. Palaeolithic cave art across Europe and Africa suggests artists had experience of hallucinogens (or possibly migraines).[8] Iraq
c.14,000 BC–c.12,000 BC Remnants of ancient poppy plantations in Spain, Greece, Northeast Africa, Egypt, and Mesopotamia are evidence of the widespread early use of opium.[4] Spain, Greece, Northeast Africa, Middle East
c.10,000 BC Earliest agriculture. Some evidence that the first crops include psychoactive plants such as mandrake, tobacco, coffee and cannabis.[8]
c.9000 BC Evidence of the use of rice wine emerges in China.[4] China
c.7000 BC Betel seeds, chewed for their stimulant effects, are found in archaeological sites in Asia.[8][9]
c.6000 BC Production Tobacco is cultivated and used by native South Americans.[9][8]
c.5000 BC Production The Sumerians already make use of opium.[10]
c.4200 BC Opium poppy seed pods (papaver somniferum) are found in a burial site at Albuñol, Spain.[8][9] Spain
c.4000 BC Production Wine and beer are produced in Egypt and Sumeria.[8] Egypt, Near East, Middle East
c.3500 BC The description of a brewery in an Egyptian papyrus is the earliest historical record of the production of alcohol.[10] Egypt
c.3000 BC Introduction The use of tea in China originates around this time.[10] China
c.3000 BC Production Cannabis is cultivated in China and other regions of Asia; evidence of cannabis smoking is also found in eastern Europe.[10][9]
c.2500 BC Early historical evidence of the eating of poppy seeds among the Lake Dwellers on Switzerland.[10] Switzerland
c.2000 BC Coca residues are found in the hair of Andean mummies.[8][9]
c.1000 BC Central Americans erect temples to mushroom gods.[9]
800 BC Introduction Distilled spirits and rice beer originate in India.[8][11][12] India
1275 Discovery Ether is discovered.[4]
1493 Introduction Columbus and his crew introduce tobacco in Europe.[10] Europe
c.1500 Introduction Opium smoking is first introduced to China.[4] China
c.1525 Introduction Swiss physician Paracelsus introduces laudanum, or tincture of opium, into the practice of medicine.[13][10] Switzerland
1551 Publication English physician William Turner advocates the use of the opium poppy in his herbal treatise, the first one to be published in the English language. United Kingdom
1625–1665 Introduction In response to outbreaks of plague in London, mithridatium, based on a complex formulation including opium, is one of the main recommended remedies.[3] United Kingdom
1750–1799 Introduction English botanist William Withering introduces the digitalis, an extract from the plant foxglove, for treatment of cardiac problems.[14] United Kingdom
1753 Publication Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus publishes his Species Plantarum, which first classifies the opium poppy as Papaver Somniferum, which literally means "sleep–inducing".[3] Sweden
1760s Introduction English physician Thomas Sydenham popularizes laudanum.[15] United Kingdom
1762 Introduction English physician Thomas Dover introduces his prescription for a diaphoretic powder, which he recommends mainly for the treatment of gout. Soon named “Dover’s powder”, this compound becomes the most widely used opium preparation during the next 150 years.[10][3] United Kingdom
1776 Discovery English chemist Joseph Priestley discovers nitrous oxide (laughing gas).[4] United Kingdom
1804–1806 Introduction German pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner manages to extract morphine from opium, launching the first generation of true drugs.[2][10][4] Germany
1821 Isolation German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge extracts caffeine from coffee beans for the first time.[16] Germany
1828 Isolation Nicotine is first isolated from the tobacco plant by physician Wilhelm Heinrich Posselt and chemist Karl Ludwig Reimann of Germany, who consider it a poison.[17][18]
1831 Discovery Chloroform is discovered.[4]
1840s Introduction Lithium is first used to treat bladder stones and gout.[19]
1841 Treatment French psychiatrist Jacques-Joseph Moreau uses hashish in treatment of mental patients at the Bicêtre Hospital.[10][20][21][22] France
1841 Discovery Russian chemist Alexander Voskresensky first discovers theobromine.[23]
1842 Scientific development French physiologist Claude Bernard discovers that the arrow poison curare acts at the neuromuscular junction to interrupt the stimulation of muscle by nerve impulses.[24]
1844 Isolation Cocaine is isolated in its pure form from the leaf of the coca plant.[10][25]
1850s Treatment Opiates are injected to treate neuralgia.[3]
1864 Synthesis Adolf von Baeyer in Ghent synthesizes barbituric acid, the first barbiturate.[10] Belgium
1869 Discovery The first synthetic drug, chloral hydrate, is discovered and introduced as a sedative-hypnotic.[26]
1869 Treatment English physician Clifford Allbutt recommends the injection of morphine to treat heart disease.[3][27] United Kingdom
1875 Treatment Dr. Anderson recommends the injection of morphine to treat asthma.[3]
1880 Isolation Hyoscine is isolated. The drug would later be extensively used in psychiatry.[28]
1884 Introduction Cocaine is first introduced as a local anesthetic.[19]
1886 Patent The recipe for Coca-Cola is patented, including coca leaves and caffeine-rich kola nuts. in 1906 Coca leaves would be removed from the recipe for Coca-Cola.[8] United States
1887 Synthesis Amphetamine is synthesized in Germany.[4][8] Germany
1893 Synthesis Methamphetamine is first synthesized from ephedrine.[29] Japan
1898 Synthesis Diacetylmorphine (heroin) is synthesized in Germany.[10] Germany
1905 Discovery German chemist Alfred Einhorn discovers the injectable local anesthetic procaine, which would become Novocain.[19]
1912 Synthesis 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is synthesised by pharmaceutical firm Merck.[8]
1912 Introduction Phenobarbital is introduced into therapeutics under the trade name of Luminal.[10]
1938 Isolation Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), the active ingredient in ergot fungus, is isolated and extracted by Swiss scientist Albert Hoffman and is considered as a potential treatment for mental illness.[4]
1954 Introduction Benztropine is commercially introduced.[30]
1958 Discovery Denatonium is discovered during research on local anesthetics by MacFarlan Smith of Edinburgh, Scotland, and registered under the trademark Bitrex.[31] United Kingdom
1964 Synthesis Romanian chemist Corneliu E. Giurgea synthesizes nootropic piracetam, a compound shown to boost memory, learning, creativity, verbal fluency, and brain circulation.[32]
1968 Synthesis Memantine, used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease, is first synthesized.[33]
1969 Synthesis Bupropion, used as antidepressant and for smoking cessation, is first synthesized.[34]
1976 Synthesis Modafinil, used for disorders such as narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, idiopathic hypersomnia, and excessive daytime sleepiness, is first synthesized.[35] France
1985 Introduction Scientists at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals develop quetiapine.[36]
1997 Introduction Dopamine agonist pramipexole is released in the United States.[37] United States
1997 Introduction Dopamine agonist ropinirole is approved for medical use.[38]

Meta information on the timeline

How the timeline was built

The initial version of the timeline was written by User:Sebastian.

Funding information for this timeline is available.

What the timeline is still missing

[1], [2],[3],[4],[5]

Timeline update strategy

See also

External links


  1. "A SHORT HISTORY OF DRUG DISCOVERY". pharmsci.uci.edu. Retrieved 8 March 2018. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "The History of Therapeutic Drug Development". twistbioscience.com. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Stolberg, Victor B. Painkillers: History, Science, and Issues. 
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 "– PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS: CLASSIFICATION AND HISTORY" (PDF). cnsproductions.com. Retrieved 10 March 2018. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 On Human Nature: Biology, Psychology, Ethics, Politics, and Religion (Michel Tibayrenc, Francisco J. Ayala ed.). 
  6. "Psychoactive drugs before prohibition". boingboing.net. Retrieved 10 March 2018. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "20th Century: The Pendulum of Use, Abuse, Regulation and Subsitution". evolutionofdruguse.wordpress.com. Retrieved 10 March 2018. 
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 "Timeline: Drugs and Alcohol". newscientist.com. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Plant, Martin. Drug Nation: Patterns, Problems, Panics & Policies. 
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 10.13 "Timeline of Events in the History of Drugs". inpud.wordpress.com. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  11. Maiya, Harish. The King of Good Times. 
  12. Dasgupta, Amitava; Langman, Loralie J. Pharmacogenomics of Alcohol and Drugs of Abuse. 
  13. Deming, David. Science and Technology in World History, Volume 3: The Black Death, the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. 
  14. "HISTORY OF DRUG DISCOVERY AND DEVELOPMENT". onlinelibrary.wiley.com. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
  15. Kamieński, Łukasz. Shooting Up: A Short History of Drugs and War. 
  16. Hayes, Dayle; Laudan, Rachel. Food and Nutrition/Editorial Advisers, Dayle Hayes, Rachel Laudan. 
  17. "Medicinal uses of tobacco in history". PMC 1079499Freely accessible. Retrieved 9 March 2018. 
  18. Magazin für Pharmacie, Volume 6; Volumes 23-24. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 GELMAN, LAUREN. "The Accidental History of 10 Common Drugs". rd.com. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
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  23. von Bibra,, Baron Ernst; Ott, Jonathan. Plant Intoxicants: A Classic Text on the Use of Mind-Altering Plants. 
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  25. Ciment, James. Social Issues in America: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. 
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  27. Padwa, Howard. Social Poison: The Culture and Politics of Opiate Control in Britain and France, 1821--1926. 
  28. A history of psychiatry: from the era of the asylum to the age of Prozac. 
  29. Haight, Wendy; Ostler, Teresa; Black, James; Kingery, Linda. Children of Methamphetamine-Involved Families: The Case of Rural Illinois. 
  30. Krantz, John Christian; Carr, Charles Jelleff; Aviado, Domingo M. Krantz and Carr's Pharmacologic principles of medical practice: a textbook on pharmacology and therapeutics for students and practitioners of medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry. 
  31. "DENATONIUM". edinformatics.com. Retrieved 9 March 2018. 
  32. "Dr. Corneliu E. Giurgea – The Father of Nootropics". noomind.org. Retrieved 9 March 2018. 
  33. Lertxundi, Unax; Medrano, Juan; Hernández, Rafael. Psychopharmacological Issues in Geriatrics. 
  34. Stolberg, Victor B. ADHD Medications: History, Science, and Issues. 
  35. Triggle, David J.; Taylor, John B. Comprehensive medicinal chemistry II: editors-in-chief, John B. Taylor, David J. Triggle. 
  36. Riedel, Michael; Müller, Norbert; Strassnig, Martin; Spellmann, Ilja; Severus, Emanuel; Möller, Hans-Jürgen. "Quetiapine in the treatment of schizophrenia and related disorders". PMC 2654633Freely accessible. 
  37. Cozza, Kelly L.; Armstrong, Scott C.; Oesterheld, Jessica R. Concise Guide to Drug Interaction Principles for Medical Practice: Cytochrome P450s, UGTs, P-glycoproteins. 
  38. Jankovic, Joseph; Tolosa, Eduardo. Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders.