Drugs that Used to be Legal

There tends to be a lot of argument and confusion out there based on the fact that alcohol is a legal substance, for those over 21 years of age, that is. Some think they cannot be addicted to alcohol. After all – it is legal. However, did you know that many now illicit drugs were once, in fact, legal? Legal does not necessarily mean non-addictive. Read on to see six drugs that used to be legal in the United States.


Cocaine is manufactured from coca leaves, which are used as a stimulant by people native to the Andes. It was used in powder form to provide a therapeutic effect for patients suffering from toothaches and many other ailments. In fact, Thomas Edison was a proponent of concentrated cocaine elixirs, as was the actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Cocaine or other derivatives of the coca leaf can still be obtained by a prescription for pain relief. Procaine and Lidocaine are still in use as anesthetics.


Marijuana was once considered a safe and effective drug to treat a range of illnesses. It was used as a medicine for physical and psychological ailments for well over 5,000 years before it was recognized as an intoxicant, and drug of abuse, in the early part of the 20th century.

Though marijuana is experiencing resurgence as a therapeutic substance, and is even legal in some states, its use for recreational uses is still very much in controversy. Between concerns about whether a person can drive while using it and issues related to its addictive qualities, much is yet to be learned about this drug.


LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide) was created in a lab by a Swiss chemist named Albert Hoffman. For years it was experimented with as a means to cure alcoholism and other psychological disorders. Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson was a proponent of the drug’s use in working AA’s 12 steps. The actor Cary Grant was also proponent of LSD therapy and the writer Ken Kesey was a subject of LSD tests conducted by the U.S. government.

LSD was outlawed in the late1960’s when it was thought to be a driving force in student activism.


Heroin, yes, Heroin used to be a legal drug. It was used as a pain medication and even for addiction management. In fact, some countries still use it as a pain medication because it is fat-soluble and can more accurately target the source of pain. For this reason, it is considered preferable to morphine, which is commonly used in the United States.

MDMA / Ecstasy

MDMA was first developed by pharmaceutical giant Merck as a hemostatic, or a substance designed to stop bleeding. Due to its stimulant properties, it is often rumored that MDMA was designed as an appetite suppressant. However, this is false.

There are many drugs available on the streets that are called ecstasy, but few actually contain MDMA.


Now considered an unparalleled social scourge, Methamphetamine was once used legally in the United States. It has been used to energize soldiers during WWII and to treat alcoholism, depression, and allergies. Meth is synthesized from over-the-counter products that contain ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Only a few states have moved to strictly regulate these products, but where this regulation has occurred, production and use of meth have dropped quite a bit.

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