Federal Restrictions in Pharmacotherapeutics: Motivations for Medicinal Alcohol Prescriptions During Prohibition

Quinn Andrews, Carol Street, Special Collections Research Center, University of Kentucky, Margaret I. King Bldg, 179 Funkhouser Drive, Lexington, KY 40506-0039

United States laws regarding alcohol and drug use have a complicated history of success and failure while ostensibly attempting to protect people from substance abuse. From 1920 to 1933, alcohol was restricted by a Constitutional amendment that forbid the production or sale of alcohol, unless prescribed by a physician. The 1919 Volstead Act prohibited more than one pint of liquor, such as 100 proof whiskey, per prescription every ten days and required all alcohol prescriptions to be written on approved prescription pads to restrict the use of alcohol to medical supervision. It is reasonable to question how and why doctors prescribed alcohol during this time. While much is known about doctors in cities such as New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, little is known about how rural doctors prescribed alcohol during this time. Analyzing primary sources from this period will provide insight into the issue. Using the 1928 alcohol prescription book in the collection of William E. Adams Papers at the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center, research will detail how Dr. Adams provided medicinal alcohol to rural Kentuckians for various ailments. The aim of this research is to elucidate the therapeutic rationale for a physician to prescribe alcohol through analysis of patient names, illnesses, demographics, frequency of prescriptions as well as comparing names from census records compiled in 1920 and 1930. This research is important because it showcases the first time the United States government restricted the prescribing power of physicians, a trend that has continued to this day.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Quinn Andrews

Institution: University of Kentucky

Type: Poster

Subject: History

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 7
Date/Time: Tue 3:30pm-4:30pm
Session Number: 5159