The pamphlet, “Habit-forming Agents their Indiscriminate Sale and Use a Menace to the Public Welfare” by L. F. Kebler, Chief of the Division of Drugs in the Bureau of Chemistry at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was released in 1910.

In this publication, Kebler uses strong language and examples to condemn the use of addictive ingredients in products used by Americans of walks of life. Its release was the culmination of an investigation that revealed the “alarming extent to which such habit-forming ingredients are used, and the large number of channels through which they reach the public, which is not informed as to their nature.”

I have included a few excerpts from the document here, but the whole thing can be read here. Of special note, this was released during the period when Spelling Reform was a hot topic. As a result, you will see some simplification rules in use like cocain for cocaine and sirups for syrups.

Extent of Importation and Use

The amount of opium (exclusive of smoking opium, which is now denied entry into this country), consumed in the United States per capita, has been doubled within the last forty years. Large quantities of other habit-forming agents, introduced chiefly for medicinal purposes, have been used. For example, “cocain” (cocain hydrochlorid), has been used for about twenty-five years, and the amount consumed at present is estimated at approximately 150,000 ounces per annum.

There are at present at least 100 sanatoriums advertising treatment for drug addiction, and it is well known that many thousands of cases are treated annually by physicians in private practice and general hospitals. The writer knows of at least 30 so-called mail-order “drug-addiction cures,” some of which apparently have a large patronage. The manager of one of these treatments stated that his company had 100,000 names, including alcohol addicts, upon its books. The number of drug addicts in the United States is variously estimated by those who are conversant with the situation at from 1,000,000 to 4,000,000; the latter number is probably excessive.


It was not an uncommon practice in former days to represent to the consumer that such agents were absent when, as a matter of fact, the very drugs named in the disclaimer were present. The reason for this subterfuge is plain. Normally no one desires to take preparations containing known habit-forming agents, which are frequently responsible for the use of, or demand for, the preparations containing them.

Soothing Syrups

Soothing sirups naturally occupy the first place in such a list. Under this title will be briefly considered baby sirups, soothing sirups, “colic cures” children’s anodynes, “infant’s friends,” teething concoctions, etc. It has long been known to the medical profession that these products, as a rule, contain habit-forming agents, but the majority of mothers have been and still are ignorant of this fact.

The following are representative of this class:

  • Children’s Comfort (morphin sulphate)
  • Dr. Fahey’s Pepsin Anodyne Compound (morphin sulphate)
  • Dr. Fahrney’s Teething Syrup (^morphin and chloroform)
  • Dr. Fowler’s Strawberry and Peppermint Mixture (morphin)
  • Dr. Groves’ Anodyne for Infants (morphin sulphate)
  • Hooper’s Anodyne, the Infant’s Friend (morphin hydrochlorid)
  • Jadway’s Elixir for Infants (codein)
  • Dr. James’ Soothing Syrup Cordial (heroin)
  • Kopp’s Baby’s Friend (morphin sulphate)
  • Dr. Miller’s Anodyne for Babies (morphin sulphate and chloral hydrate)
  • Dr. Moffett’s Teethina, Teething Powders (powdered opium)
  • Victor Infant Relief (chloroform and cannabis indica)
  • Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup (morphin sulphate)

Medicated Soft Drinks

During the last twenty years a large number of soft drinks containing cafein and smaller or greater quantities of coca leaf and kola nut products have been placed upon the market. Preparations of this class… are now known to be an impending evil.

It is believed to some extent at present that the use of cocain taken internally produces a sense of exhilaration, and the amount of muscular and mental power appears to be temporarily increased. Cocain is one of the most insidious and dangerous habit-forming drugs at present known. Many lives have been wrecked and many crimes, have been committed as a result of its use, and strenuous efforts are being made to curtail its employment.

It is well known that parents, as a rule, withhold tea and coffee from their children, but having no knowledge of the presence of cocain, caffein, or other deleterious agents in soft drinks, they unwittingly permit their children to be harmed by their use.

Manufacturers of drinks of this class, containing cocain, have been successfully prosecuted, for example, Koca Nola, Celery Cola, Wiseola, Pillsbury’s Koke, Kola-Áde, Kos-Kola, Cafe-Coca, and Koke.

Cold and Cough Remedies

Adamson's Botanic Cough Balsam

Adamson’s Botanic Cough Balsam

Colds and coughs are among the most common ailments of childhood and youth, and many special mixtures have been devised and placed on the market for treating them. These concoctions usually contain one or more habit-forming drugs, as is clearly shown by the following examples:

  • Acker’s English Remedy (chloroform)
  • Adamson’s Botanic Cough Balsam (heroin hydrochlorid)
  • Dr. A. Boschee’s German Syrup (morphin)
  • Dr. Bull’s Cough Syrup (morphin, later codein)
  • Dr. Fenner’a Cough-Cold Syrup (morphin)
  • Jackson’s Magic Balsam (chloroform and morphin)
  • Kohler’s One-Night Cough Cure (morphin sulphate, chloroform, and cannabis indica)
  • Von Totta’s Cough Pectoral (morphin and chloroform)

The same habit-forming agents are offered to the public in the form of confections under such names as cough lozenges and pastilles; examples:

  • Linseed, Licorice and Chlorodyne Cough Lozenges (chloroform and ether)
  • Linseed, Licorice and Chlorodyne Pastilles (morphin, chloroform, and ether)
  • Pastilles Paneraj (morphin and codein)

Tobacco-habit Cures

All of them are ineffective, and some contain cocain in one form or another, which at once indicates the purpose of the promoter of the remedy. Instead of eradicating what is commonly believed to be a comparatively harmless habit, there is grave danger of fastening a pernicious drug habit upon the user. Examples of preparations of this character recently examined and found to contain cocain and cocain derivatives are Coca Bola, Tobacco Bullets, and Wonder Workers. The Coca Bola is marketed by Dr. Charles L. Mitchell, of Philadelphia, and the Tobacco Bullets by the Victor Remedy Company, now the Blackburn Remedy Company, of Dayton, Ohio, while the Wonder Workers were promoted by George S. Beck, of Springfield, Ohio.

Summary and Eradication

There are various remedies on the market used from infancy to old age containing habit-forming agents which can be purchased almost ad libitum by anyone. Many of the mixtures are concocted, directly or indirectly, through the aid of unscrupulous physicians. Some illicit sales of coçain, morphin, etc., are also made by druggists, both wholesale and retail.

  • First: Educate the public through the press and by pamphlets, lectures, etc.
  • Second: Enact laws forbidding the sale of all pernicious habit-forming drugs, such as cocain, morphin, opium, heroin, etc., and their derivatives and preparations, at retail, except on prescriptions of physicians, dentists, or veterinarians.
  • Third: Require a permanent record to be kept, subject to state and federal inspection at all times, of all transactions in such drugs, whether wholesale, retail, or through the use of prescriptions.
  • Fourth: Enact laws forbidding the handling of any of these products except by manufacturers, wholesale and retail druggists, and others legally qualified.
  • Fifth: The state boards of health, or other governing bodies, should be empowered to withdraw the licenses of physicians who prescribe or druggists who sell these articles for other than legitimate medicinal purposes.
  • Sixth: A federal law should be enacted forbidding the shipment in interstate commerce of habit-forming drugs or preparations containing them, except through the customary channels of trade, and then only when complete records of all transactions are kept.