High Society- a drug education exhibition by the Welcome Trust

High Society- a drug education exhibition by the Welcome TrustHigh Society- a drug education exhibition by the Welcome TrustWith the illicit drug trade estimated by the UN at £200 billion a year and new drugs constantly appearing on the streets and the internet, it can seem as if we are in the grip of an unprecedented level of addiction.

Yet the use of psychoactive drugs is nothing new, and indeed our most familiar ones – alcohol, coffee and tobacco – have all been illegal in the past.

From ancient Egyptian poppy tinctures to Victorian cocaine eye drops, Native American peyote rites to the salons of the French Romantics, mind-altering drugs have a rich history.

‘High Society’ will explore the paths by which these drugs were first discovered – from apothecaries’ workshops to state-of-the-art laboratories – and how they came to be simultaneously fetishised and demonised in today’s culture.

You can watch the online video at: http://www.wellcomecollection.org/whats-on/exhibitions/high-society.aspx

You can also try their free “High society” quiz at: http://www.wellcomecollection.org/whats-on/exhibitions/high-society/high-soceity-quiz.aspx Test your knowledge of drugs. Faster answers mean higher scores. Play again for more questions.

High Society: Drugs in Victorian Britain on Friday 11, 19.00-21.00 & Saturday 12 February 2011, 10.30-17.30

Victorian Britain: a global Empire and a culture awash with drugs. Opium, morphine, cocaine and cannabis are on sale in every high-street pharmacy. Join us for this special event where we will explore these drug-addled and dissolute times and discover the origins of today’s drug controls.


Immerse yourself in the era at an evening of authentic Victorian entertainment. The evening will include a performance of the marvellous Magic Lantern with piano accompaniment, a complimentary drinks reception so you can get to know your fellow guests and a chance to enjoy the ‘High Society’ exhibition away from the crowds.


It is the 19th century. The advances of science, combined with unfettered global trade, are making drugs stronger, more available and more dangerous than ever before. Something must be done – but what?

Join experts from the worlds of history, literature and pharmacology to explore the drug-addled Victorian metropolis in a series of fascinating talks. Our speakers include ‘High Society’ curator and writer Mike Jay, Stuart Anderson, Associate Dean at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and historians Louise Foxcroft and Michael Neve.

Tickets must be booked in advance.

£30 full price/£20 concession for both days, including drinks on Friday evening and lunch, tea and coffee on Saturday.

£5 early bird discount on top-price tickets – if you book by Friday 21 January

Please call 020 7611 2222 to book.


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