The use of cannabis for headaches these days is common, at least here in Colorado and other states with medical marijuana laws are in place (and plenty where medical pot isn't legal, for that matter).
But in 1907, cannabis was beginning to be seen as an adulterant in medicines. Many ads for drugs, like the one we found for Dr. Miles' Pain Pills, advertised their lack of cannabis as an advantage over the competition. Their drugs were safer, they said, because the medication didn't have any pot in them. But looking back now, it's clear that wasn't the case at all.
The copy reads:
"If subject to headache, have them with you always. No harm can come from their use, if taken as directed, as they contain no opium, chloral, morphine, cocaine, chloroform, heroin, alpha and beta eucaine, cannabis indica or chloral hydrate or their derivatives."
There might not have been any cannabis (or coke or smack) in the pills, but there was acetanilide, known by the brand name Antifebrin -- and cannabis would have been much safer. Antifebrin caused a buildup of methemoglobin, which forced blood vessels in the hands and skin to become oxygen-depleted, causing cyanosis. In short: it made you turn purple. Methemoglobinemia also can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, loss of consciousness and, ironically, headaches.
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All of which sound a lot worse than any of side-effects of cannabis we've ever had.
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