Im Spannungsfeld zwischen Arzneimittel und Rauschgift: Zur Geschichte der Betäubungsmittelgesetzgebung in der Schweiz, and: Die akademische Ausbildung der Apotheker im Kanton Bern (review)
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Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74.2 (2000) 410-412



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Book Review

Im Spannungsfeld zwischen Arzneimittel und Rauschgift: Zur Geschichte der Betäubungsmittelgesetzgebung in der Schweiz

Die akademische Ausbildung der Apotheker im Kanton Bern


Catherine Hänni. Im Spannungsfeld zwischen Arzneimittel und Rauschgift: Zur Geschichte der Betäubungsmittelgesetzgebung in der Schweiz. Veröffentlichungen der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Pharmazie / Publications de la Société suisse d'histoire de la pharmacie, no. 19. Bern: Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Pharmazie / Société suisse d'histoire de la pharmacie, 1998. 500 pp. Ill. Sw. Fr. 58.00 (paperbound).

Ursula Claudia Hörmann. Die akademische Ausbildung der Apotheker im Kanton Bern. Veröffentlichungen der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Pharmazie / Publications de la Société suisse d'histoire de la pharmacie, no. 18. Bern: Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Pharmazie / Société suisse d'histoire de la pharmacie, 1998. 499 pp. Ill. Sw. Fr. 65.00 (paperbound).

Both these books are the result of extensive studies leading to doctoral theses under the guidance of the Swiss historian of pharmacy François Ledermann.

The title of Catherine Hänni's book reminds us that legislation on narcotics is a balance between two equally important aspects: their use as invaluable medicines, and their abuse as street drugs. Hänni starts out with a description of the control of narcotics at the international level. The major part of the book then [End Page 410] deals with the situation in Switzerland, and it closes with the present state of legislation and of social consequences of drug dependence.

International treaties and laws against the immoral trade in narcotics originated early in the twentieth century. In Switzerland the first law for the control of legal trade and the repression of illegal trade was enacted only in 1924. In its updated versions, enacted between 1951 and 1995, the list of controlled substances was extended far beyond opiates, cocaine, and cannabis; in addition, penal as well as preventive, therapeutic, and social relief regulations were introduced. Yet as was typical of the slowness of political processes in Switzerland, legislation lagged behind the resolutions of the League of Nations and later the UN. The first law of 1924 was enacted against fierce opposition from the pharmaceutical industry, which at that time enjoyed a profitable exportation of alkaloids. Legislation was also decelerated by the fear of endangered freedom of trade, by federalist concerns, and by a skeptical attitude toward foreign models. The delay of up to twenty years in the ratification of international treaties was clearly detrimental to Switzerland's prestige.

Hänni demonstrates remarkable insight into both political processes and problems with abused substances. She also discusses new approaches that certain European countries are experimenting with in order to deal with the consequences of drug dependence, such as the medically supervised administration of heroin to addicts who have failed to be helped by therapeutic means. The book contains a large amount of well-presented material and yet is clear and readable.

Ursula Claudia Hörmann shows how pharmacy became an academic discipline by unfolding the case history of Bern. Pharmacists in European countries were traditionally trained via an apprenticeship in an apothecary's shop. From the eighteenth century on, apprentices were encouraged to take supplementary university courses in botany, physics, and chemistry. Only in the course of the nineteenth century did pharmacy gradually shift into the university and become an academic profession.

In Bern, the academic education of pharmacists started around 1800. When a state-run pharmacy was established in the 1830s in order to supply the state university hospital and the prisons with drugs, this model pharmacy was also charged with the teaching of subjects like pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacognosy, and forensic chemistry. Professors of pharmacy and of chemistry competed for the teaching of pharmaceutical subjects, which were therefore alternately claimed by the medical and the graduate school. Full independence of pharmacy as a course of studies was reached...