By Pamela Donovan
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Additional info for Drink Spiking and Predatory Drugging: A Modern History
45 Northup was born and raised in the Northern USA and lived as a “free black” at the time of slavery in the South. His father had been emancipated by the man who “owned” him and relocated to New York State. Northup was lured to Washington, DC in the promise of work as a musician and was waylaid and sold into slavery in Louisiana; his captors probably used a narcotic in his drink. Again, acute, sporadic labor shortages may have created a niche for traders who specialized in capturing free black men into slavery.
They included other plants with intoxicant properties, common chemicals, narcotics, and known poisons. The practice was widespread. The purpose of such adulteration was typically to either mask inferior products or process, or enhance the intoxicating quality of the beverage with a smaller true-product amount. Lead oxide, or litharge, was used by unscrupulous vintners to resweeten turned or vinegarized wine. 14 On the one hand, ordinary drinkers mainly ingested whatever came their way without complaint, much as they did adulterated foods, teas, and coffees.
Gough, one of the most famous redeemed drunkards of the century, slipped off the wagon a few times after his rise to fame—or was he pushed? He published his testimony in 1845, the same year he experienced a spectacular episode of insobriety. He said that someone had drugged his soda water and arranged for him to be found looking drunk to discredit him as a prominent man of Temperance. Blame was laid at the hands of conspiring spirits merchants threatened by the strength of activists such as him.