London Exhibit Traces History of Drug Use

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A new exhibition opening in London chronicles the controversial history of mind-altering substances.

"High Society," a collection of over 200 drug-related artifacts, includes items such as a massive bong statue that spans the entire length of a room, dope-inspired paintings, and graphics sketching the bloody trail of today's drug trade-a market estimated at $230 billion per year, according to the United Nations.

USA Today reported the showcase of substances also contains a "confession corner" where visitors can anonymously divulge their personal experiences with drugs.

The exhibition insists that the use of drugs is nothing new, and even familiar substances such as alcohol, coffee and tobacco have been illegal in the past. From the workshops of apothecaries to modern chemical laboratories, "High Society" examines how drug use has been fetishised and demonized for over 2,000 years.

"Most people don't know that much about drugs earlier than the 1960's, they think that drug culture all started about 50 years ago," explained one of the show's co-curators, Caroline Fischer, to USA Today.

The oldest artifact on display is a clay opium jug that dates back to 1500 B.C.

A book titled High Society: Mind Altering Drugs in History and Culture," accompanies the exhibition.

The exhibition opens Thursday at Wellcome Collection museum in London. Open free to the public, it runs through February 27th, 2011.

Photo by StePagna on flickr.

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