The Bizarre Nature of Cocaine Pharmacies, Survival and Joy

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Oh, how I love a good rabbit hole. I recently dove into a gorge of guilt-laden goodness that brought to light the idiotic, unevolved thought processes in human history. I particularly love the ones that have to do with medical history. Like when they prescribed smoking cigarettes as a medical treatment for foul breath and ASTHMA. Or when they turned heroin into medicine because it worked better and was less addictive than morphine. Once upon a time, cocaine tablets for toothaches could be found in every drug store. How about women getting tapeworms, on purpose, to lose weight? Have mercy. This is how we can be certain that evolution is a thing. Recognizing the sheer idiocy of these practices is proof of progress.

We as a species become smarter and smarter with every generation. Reflecting on how far we have come in knowledge, technology, and kindness is something that invigorates me. In my mind, I can look back and see the progress from primal, animal-type instincts to the more refined computation machines our brains have become. I love that my brain works this way and that is why anthropology and the history of human evolution interest me so much. That ever-present search for who we are and what this all means connects me to fascinating topics, time and time again.

When people say things along the lines of “I can’t believe how terrible this world has become” or “human kindness is not what it once was”, I am flabbergasted. Similar to my life flashing before my eyes, my view of human history darts through my mind and I immediately go to slavery and the holocaust. Those two events alone can show the growth of humanity. I like to believe that we live in a world where hate of that magnitude would never be possible again. It makes the current situation in Ukraine that much more unbelievable, as noted by the outcries of the masses. These events are all recent. Imagine what times were like even before our most modern, atrocious acts of inhumanity.

In medieval times, if you had sex for any other reason than to conceive, meaning for pleasure, you could be sentenced to life in prison. Livestock could go to court for infractions and be sentenced to death. Blasphemy could get you placed in a box where rats could nibble at you, likely transmitting the Black Plague, the pandemic of the time. I am not going to go too far into the various ways in which people were tortured back in those days — if you have never seen or heard of a Judas Cradle, you should look it up. Suffice it to say, that the treatment of humans further back in time was very barbaric.

I was recently watching the season finale of the show 1883. It is a prequel to Taylor Sheridan’s awesome television hit Yellowstone. I am not going to spoil anything here but the show is about a group of people who set out on the Oregon Trail for westward expansion. How lovely to dream of vast open spaces, and to witness the unrivaled, unencumbered beauty of North America, right? The draw for me was the power country couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill — watching those two is so much fun. But the true star of the show, the vibrant and gorgeous Isabel May, makes a big name for herself. I think that this young lady is about to do some big things in Hollywood.

The show starts with an American dream, new land, and new life; that is not at all the overtones that I felt or experienced while watching. For me, the onscreen experience eluded a time when death was lurking in every space and waiting for a moment to strike. No grocery stores, no doctors or hospitals, no bottled water — snakes, critters, animals everywhere. Evil bandits lie in wait to take advantage and gain what others have. Indigenous Americans engage in protecting their sacred spaces, which is justifiable. I’m telling ya, westward expansion was not for the feeble or fragile. The sole goal, day after day, was survival.

It got me thinking about evolution and how comfortable we are now. Individuals from history were never able to think about happiness or joy, they were too busy trying to stay alive. It helps me to understand how a focus on mental health is only now becoming a thing. For the vast majority today, survival is a given. If we are hungry, we can find food; if we are thirsty, there is clean water available somewhere. We have safety and comforts that earlier generations did not. This gives us the freedom to evolve in various ways and focus on aspects of humanity that we were unable to in the past. For me, this explains why mental and emotional health is only now coming to the forefront of human consciousness. I mean, who can think of what brings them joy when they have to map out a successful plan to stay alive until tomorrow?

However fun it is to think of time this way, I know that history is not as linear as my mind would have me believe. Our shared history is complex and multifaceted, for sure, and I am not claiming to see the whole picture. In the same year, dumb-dumbs were selling cocaine in drugs stores, electricity, the telephone, and toilet paper were also being invented. These are all very good inventions that propelled humanity to the next realm of enlightenment and allowed us to wipe our hineys. For every viewpoint I gain reflecting on history and evolution, there is always a flip side.

Bringing that logic into the present, I am hit with a knowing that some people are out there today, and their only goal issurvival. Not fighting for survival in the way the cowboys did on the Oregon Trail, but in the way that the act of enduring life day to day is burdensome — having most days met with struggle and strife. Children from traumatic childhoods who are hungry or physically harmed. Women attempting to escape abuse. Boys who grow up without fathers to teach them how a man should be. Men with mental illness who happen upon no place to live. Through our evolution as a species and knowing how far we have come, it is heartbreaking to know that some people, our neighbors, and fellow humans still do not have the comfort of safety that allows them to discover happiness and joy. I can only hope that compassion is growing for humanity at the same rate happiness is and that someday we will thrive as joyful, benevolent humans. I dream of a future when all of humanity will adopt the creed of our armed forces and leave no man (or woman or child) behind. Thoughts and prayers for all of the war-torn, fringed, hungry, and hurt humans who live in chaos day after day who still have to fight for survival. I know from experience, nothing can flourish in chaos.

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Natalie Greer

Natalie Greer


Well-being curator + mom + yogi + registered nurse + board-certified nurse health coach — perpetually attempting to capture humanity with language.