Drugs: a social history

Australian doctors once prescribed heroin for the relief of pain in childbirth, cannabis cigarettes were promoted as an asthma cure and opium-laced syrups were sold to parents to calm teething infants. In the 1950s women with ’nervous tension’ were advised to have ’a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down’.

Attitudes to drug use changed dramatically during the 20th century, with many drugs becoming prohibited or restricted substances, yet two of the most lethal recreational drugs used today, tobacco and alcohol, remain legal and widely available.

In the exhibition, DRUGS: A Social History, curator Inara Walden and Paul Dillon from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, examine our society’s love-hate relationship with drugs and challenge existing views about drugs.

The exhibition uses images, objects and film to highlight key episodes in Australia’s drug-taking history: from sly grog shops to safe injecting rooms, from Bex to the billboard vigilante group BUGAUP, from opium dens to the Aquarius Festival to rave nation. Both legal and illegal drugs are featured, including tobacco and alcohol, cannabis, opiates, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD and amphetamines.

Tour schedule

South Australian Museum - Adelaide | 23 May - 29 July 2005
Broken Hill Geocentre | 1 August - 20 September 2005
Shear Outback - Hay | 26 September - 28 November 2005
Dubbo Regional Gallery | 9 January - 12 March 2006
Orange Regional Gallery | 9 June - 6 August 2006
Newcastle Regional Museum | 30 September 2006 - 18 March 2007
Fairfield Regional Art Gallery | 30 March - 30 May 2007
Museum of the Riverina - Wagga Wagga | 6 September ñ 25 November 2007
Albury Regional Museum | 9 March - 6 April 2008
Melbourne Museum | 9 May - 5 October 2008

24 October 2003 - 10 October 2004
20°  Showers