During most of the 1800s, there was a widespread belief that masturbating would drive you insane.
There was a huge cultural fear of masturbation. This natural act was punished, criminalized and pathologized.
Academics call this "The Great Masturbation Panic".
When people saw someone with a mental illness who was masturbating in public, or in a mental asylum, they believed the mental illness was caused by masturbation, and didn't realize it was the mental illness causing the socially inappropriate behaviour.
It's hard to overemphasize how obsessed Victorian culture was with masturbation. There was intense, widespread fear that young people were touching themselves for sexual pleasure, and that this would lead to insanity, crime and social breakdown.
Doctors and religious leaders regularly warned about the severe dangers of "self-abuse".
Young people were constantly threatened about masturbating. Parents were encouraged to spy on their children and burst into their rooms at night to see if they were touching themselves. If caught masturbating, they would be severely punished or sent to an asylum for treatment.
Kellogg advised torturing kids to stop masturbation
Masturbation was considered so dangerous that brutal suppression was justified.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (inventor of corn flakes) was one of many medical leaders who considered masturbation a great health risk, and urged parents to stop masturbation by torturing their children with electric shocks and circumcision without anesthesia.
Instead of being seen at worst as a vice and at best as a pleasant indulgence, masturbation was treated as a severe medical issue, where mandatory health treatment needed to be enforced with legal and social punishments.
Of course. most people likely still masturbated, but they would feel ashamed and guilty. They would never admit to it in public, and if they did they would be ridiculed, punished, and criminalized.
This "War on Masturbation" went on for over a century, causing pain and anguish for generations.
Drug use stigmatized in a similar manner
Nowadays, we know that masturbation is normal.
We recognize that some people can have issues with masturbating too often, or in an unhealthy way or antisocial way. But for the vast majority, touching our own bodies for pleasure is normal, and just not a big deal.
Instead, we have pathologized drug use.
The modern "Drug Panic" is essentially equivalent to the "Masturbation Panic" of the past. Both are "Moral Panics" where our society has developed and intense and irrational social fear.
Many people now believe that drug use drives you insane.
There is a huge cultural fear of drug use. This natural act is punished, criminalized and pathologized.
When people see someone with a mental illness who is using drugs in public, or in a socially inappropriate way, they believe the mental illness was caused by drug use, and don't realize it is the mental illness causing the socially inappropriate drug-use behaviour.
Most drug users live "normal" lives.
It's hard to overemphasize how obsessed our culture is with drug use. There is intense, widespread fear that young people are taking drugs for pleasure, and that this will lead to insanity, crime, and social breakdown.
Doctors and religious leaders regularly warn about the severe dangers of "drug abuse".
Young people are constantly threatened about drug use. Parents are encouraged to spy on their children and test them to see if they are taking drugs. If caught, they get punished or sent to an asylum for treatment.
Drug use is considered so dangerous that brutal suppression is justified.
Instead of being seen at worst as a vice and at best as a pleasant indulgence, drug use is treated as a severe medical issue, where mandatory health treatment needs to be enforced with legal and social punishments.
Of course, most people still take drugs for pleasure, but they are taught to feel ashamed and guilty. They will never admit to it in public, and if they do they will be ridiculed, punished and criminalized.
This "War on Drugs" has gone on for over a century, causing pain and anguish for generations.
One day we will understand that drug use is normal.
We will recognize that some people sometimes have issues with using drugs too often or in an unhealthy way, but that for the most part, using drugs is normal and not a big deal.
At their root, both the "Masturbation Panic" and the "Drug Panic" come from the same source: The twisted idea that pleasure is a sin, and that we must stop people from feeling pleasure or we will lose control of society.
The result: generations of senseless punishment and pain.
One day we will look back at the Drug Panic the way we now look back at the Masturbation Panic, with a sad smile as we see how incredibly silly, and incredibly harmful it all was.