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High Society

Thursday 11 November 2010 - Sunday 27 February 2011

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With the illicit drug trade estimated by the UN at $320 billion (£200bn) 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.

  • High Tea

    High Tea

    In this strategic plate-spinning game you play an independent British smuggler, selling opium in China's Pearl Delta. Buy cheap and sell high to make a profit which you can spend on tea to keep Britain happy.

  • High Society Quiz

    High Society Quiz

    Test your knowledge of drugs both licit and illicit with our High Society quiz, and share your score with friends.

  • Drug experiences

    Drug experiences

    Browse our database of drug experiences submitted at High Society.

  • Drugs in Victorian Britain

    Drugs in Victorian Britain

    A two day symposium, 11-12 February 2011. Intoxication in society and culture, the temperance movement and the origins of drug control.

  • Image galleries

    Image galleries

    Explore the rich and strange imagery of over 2000 years of drug culture.

  • The book

    The book

    Designed to accompany the exhibition, 'High Society: Mind altering drugs in history and culture' explores the spectrum of mind-altering substances across the globe and throughout history. Beautifully illustrated with rarely seen material, this striking, lyrical and rigorously researched book puts its controversial subject into the widest possible context.

  • Related reading

    Related reading

    Titles of particular interest for 'High Society'. All are for sale in the Wellcome Collection branch of Blackwell.

  • High Society events

    High Society events

    'High Society' is supported by a diverse series of events. Invesitage the psychological perspective on drugs at a special Packed Lunch, enjoy 'Kaffeine und Kuchen' in the style of 18th-century Leipzig, explore the definition of a drug and more.

  • Essays


    A selection of essays first featured in 'Big Picture', a free post-16 resource for teachers.

  • Perspectives tours

    Perspectives tours

    Enhance your visit to 'High Society' by joining one of our free perspectives tours.

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