On a Popular Drug Addiction

As far as historians can tell, the scourge began in Mecca. People gathered in small groups to consume the drug and socialize. Such became its pull that the governor of the city ordered it banned in the early 1500s. Additionally, he decreed that any discovery of its use punishable with severe penalties. It was a danger to the public, he moralized, and declared it even more of a potential disturbance to the commonweal than alcohol was. In addition, he was quick to point out that, unlike alcohol, this particular drug caused radical thinking rather than lethargy. And that was the primary danger. Unfortunately for the governor, his immediate superior was under the spell of the drug since he was member of the Sumi Muslims. That sect, some of the first abusers of it, gave the drug the name Qahwa. Anyway, the governor’s boss forced him to overturn the ban and make the drug legal again. Oh, and he arrested the governor. But that wasn’t the only time attempts at banning the drug in the Muslim world. Clerics decried the fact that abusers usually gathered to use it. They hated the idea that any place besides their mosques would be a place politics, religion, or even gossip would shared. However, these bans never really lasted.

Members of the Catholic church in the late 1500s tried to ban it as well, citing “proof” that it was a drug from the devil. None other than the head of the church, Pope Clement, stopped this clerical attempt at an Italian version of Just Say No. He, too, had tasted this devil drug and had fallen victim to its charms. His Holiness is reported to have said that the wondrous drug was too good to be left to infidels; God would not have allowed something so incredible to be on earth without allowing His children to enjoy it. Just to waylay any possible fears about the demonic nature of the drug, Clement actually baptized it before using it, thus eliminating any possible demonic influence.

Other attempts to keep the drug off the streets have happened in several countries over the ensuing centuries. Sweden tried to thwart its use by keeping it legal but raising the price so high as to try to keep it out of the hands of the lower classes. That didn’t work. Germany also tried to limit the drug’s use by promoting its home brewed beers. It says a lot that a government would prefer its population drink alcohol rather than take this drug. Britain attempted bans, but public outcry against such attempts threatened to overturn several parliamentary elections. Even the United States has seen periods where the government made the use of the drug limited to a public who craved it desperately.

The popularity of the drug has allowed it to be legal for most of the history of its public use. It helped the popularity that the drug has been used in the home, but it has also been often consumed in public gathering places and still is to this day. In fact, you’ve probably been to one of these drug dens.

It’s caffeine.


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