The Hasheesh Eater by Fitz Hugh Ludlow (1857)

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The Hasheesh Eater by Fitz Hugh Ludlow (1857) - Full text provided by

A number of colorful references to the recreational use of marijuana and hashish in the nineteenth century are available. Lush descriptions of their personal experiences were published by Baudelaire, Gautier, Dumas pere, and other members of a Parisian institution, the Club des Hachichins, 31 where strong forms of marijuana were eaten. In December 1856 a young American, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, of Poughkeepsie, New York, published an account of his own marijuana-eating experiences in Putnam's Magazine, which he then expanded to 371 pages in The Hasheesh Eater, a book published by Harper and Brothers the following year.

Young Ludlow had read De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater, and was probably influenced as well by the French accounts of hashish eating published in the 1840s. His interest in drugs thus kindled, he made friends with a Poughkeepsie apothecary named Anderson and soon Anderson's drugstore was his favorite "lounging place."

One spring morning in the early 1850s, however, apothecary Anderson greeted young Ludlow with a question: "Have you seen my new acquisitions?"

Ludlow "looked toward the shelves in the direction of which he pointed, and saw, added since my last visit, a row of comely pasteboard cylinders enclosing vials of the various extracts prepared by Tilden & Co.... I approached the shelves, that I might take them in review." 34 One of the Tilden products was a marijuana extract. After consulting the United States Dispensatory (quoted above) and Johnson's Chemistry of Common Life, Ludlow took ten grains of it. Nothing happened. A few days later he took fifteen grains. Again nothing happened.

Gradually, by five grains at a time, I increased the dose to thirty grains, which I took one evening half an hour after tea. I had now almost come to the conclusion that I was absolutely unsusceptible of the hasheesh influence. Without any expectation that this last experiment would be more successful than the former ones, and indeed with no realization of the manner in which the drug affected those who did make the experiment successfully, I went to pass the evening at the house of an intimate friend. In music and conversation the time passed pleasantly. The clock struck ten, reminding me that three hours had elapsed since the dose was taken, and as yet not an unusual symptom had appeared. I was provoked to think that this trial was as fruitless as its predecessors.

Ha! what means this sudden thrill? A shock, as of some unimagined vital force, shoots without warning through my entire frame, leaping to my fingers' ends, piercing my brain, startling me till I almost spring from my chair.

I could not doubt it. I was in the power of the hasheesh influence. 35

Ludlow went on eating marijuana extract on occasion for the next four years, from the age of sixteen to the age of twenty. Then he stopped, and reported his experiences at inordinate length.