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Posted on Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

New museum exhibit traces history of substance abuse in Washtenaw County

By Lisa Carolin


An exhibit on the history of substance abuse in Washtenaw County opens today at the Museum on Main Street. It features everything from vintage items once found in local drug stores to Ann Arbor references like Hash Bash and John Sinclair.

photo by Lisa Carolin | for

Opening up conversation and bringing awareness to the fact that substance abuse is far from a new problem in Washtenaw County are two of the goals of a new exhibit opening today at the Museum on Main Street in Ann Arbor.

The exhibit is called "Bad Habits: Drinks, Drags, and Drugs in Washtenaw County History," and it's a collaboration among the Unviersity of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, U-M's Substance Abuse Research Center and the Washtenaw County Historical Society Museum on Main Street.

"It is part of the LSA Research Theme Semester 'Hooked: Addiction, Society & Culture,'" said Maryann George, who works with LSA. "The biological, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual components of substance use and abuse are ideal subjects for interdisciplinary examination."

U-M researchers in more than 20 departments are addressing issues including medical marijuana, prescription drug diversion and the search for medications to treat addictive disorders.

"Addiction is a brain disease," said John Traynor, organizer of the 2012 research theme semester, director of U-M's Substance Abuse Research Center, and professor of pharmacology. "More than any other disease, understanding addiction and developing methods to manage and prevent addictions require a multidisciplinary approach."

Memorable moments highlighted at the exhibit include a 1902 speech by temperance crusader Carrie Nation at the corner of State Street and North University Avenue standing on the back of a horse-drawn cab; a performance by John Lennon in support of jailed activist John Sinclair in 1971; and the opening and closing of the local Pfizer research facility.

Diane Mankowski, who has worked on the exhibit, is a board member and Exhibit Committee member at the Washtenaw County Historical Society.

"Professor Michelle McClellan, a fellow board member at WCHS, brought the exhibit to the Museum on Main Street because of her association with the U-M Substance Abuse Research Center," said Mankowski. "She thought it would be a great chance to involve the larger community in an LSA Theme Semester and attract a student population to the museum."

U-M Senior Mae Oyler, who helped with the exhibit, was at today's opening.

"I hope that it brings awareness to the community that drugs and alcohol are a big part of the campus community's history," she said.

The exhibit is open this weekend both Saturday and Sunday noon-4 p.m. and will open each weekend until Sunday, April 29. The museum is located at 500 N. Main St. For more information, see the website.



Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.

How did John Sinclair get into the picture. That has nothing to do with drug abuse. John Sinclair was an activist who had been busted with two joints, and the powers that be at the time gave him ten years in prison for two joints. Ten for two, and he also was the manager of the MC5, a rock band who was getting most popular amongst the hippies. The people gathered to protest the "Ten For Two" conviction. It turned into the hash bash because the pot activist came to honor this as a display of corporate government control going back to the early 19th century when it was labeled an item of prohibition. The drug abuse authority has taken the band on pot to suggest addiction, and never really had proof of this as an addictive drug, so they labeled it as a gate way drug (what ever that means). The Hash Bash was and always will be an organized political protest, and should not be down rated to an "Abuse Item", as crack or heroin. There is a strong argument of corporate powers behind the seen of this act. Peace!


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 1:30 a.m.

Big Jughn is pushing 70 and still shilling for the legalization of pot. He advocated open drug use for the last 40 plus years and many people took his lead, I wonder how many of them wound up in early graves because of substance abuse.

Ari Sussman

Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 11:51 p.m.

Nice exhibit -- great museum. Enjoyed checking out the collection of locally published books in the gift shop.

David Cahill

Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

This is an unfortunate exhibit to discredited drug-war pietism.


Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 10:44 p.m.

Have you seen the exhibit?


Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 6:04 p.m.

The Spiritual Aspects of Substance Use and Abuse : I would be happy if would clarify the statement that pertains to the spiritual aspects of drug habits. Many cultural, religious, literary, and philosophical traditions divide man into two categories; 1. a material body, and 2. spirit or soul. Psychologists tend to divide man into body and mind and the term 'spiritual' is often used to describe a non-material part of man. I would like to know the meaning of this term 'spiritual' and kindly share the name of the faculty team member who may be investigating the spiritual aspect of this problem. If no person is involved, the term 'spiritual' could be eliminated . I understand the term 'spiritualism' when it is used to describe a specific behavior displayed by the human form and the spiritual behavior must be observable. To call drug addiction as a brain disease will not help us as we find people using drugs display signs and symptoms of the disease in different parts of the body and drugs like opium cause constipation, and cocaine causes coronary spasm. Apart from brain, drugs affect various organs and tissues of the body. The use of alcohol is often manifested as a liver disease and the use of tobacco leads to pulmonary disease and affects blood vessels. Addiction would be less of a problem if the body is not affected by drugs. The separation of mind and body will not help us to better understand this problem. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

It would have been really nice to put this museum near the art work near City Hall. At least we all will need to be drugged to understand why it is there in the first place. I also do not understand why we need something like this at all. I agree with the posts here. I will not be surprised if this place is broken into for someone who is desperate. Ann Arbor? You really don't need this museum. But if you must you must.

Rod Johnson

Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

It's one exhibit at a museum that's been there for a long time. Pay attention. Plus... you know, it's a big world. Some people like some things, other people like other things. The wonderful thing about this is that you don't actually have to go if you don't want. I'm not interested in the Super Bowl, but I don't go around complaining that I don't understand why we need it.


Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

I am curious as to whether there was more addiction when these drug laced elixirs and potions were legal than now when opiates cocaine, and marijuana are illegal. I am also curious as to whether the exhibit treats alcohol as a drug which it certainly is though legal and more often abused and for that matter fatally abused than any of the others. Our current drug policies are expensive, ineffective, and result in the corruption of our officials and the criminalization of large portions of our population. Still, prisons are job creators and I suppose a valuable asset in a slow economy.


Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 6:28 a.m.

Sorry folks, there are NO DRUGS in the museum. That's colored water in the bottles.


Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 6:13 a.m.

Are they giving out samples for a proper historical experience?


Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 5:16 a.m.

I got 5 bucks bet that the Museum has it's first break-in ever after this article was printed with those pics of the patent opiate medicines.

Dog Guy

Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 2:56 a.m.

Council must declare an annual Ann Arbor Substance Abuse History Month with a million dollar budget.

Ron Granger

Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 11:10 p.m.

How long until this gets broken into by desperate users?


Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 10:24 p.m.

They should hire John Sinclair as curator.


Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

How about Chuck Ream?

West of Main

Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

I appreciate the attempt to historicize drug and alcohol use, but this exhibit seems to dwell exclusively on the addiction and dependence side of things. I'm not saying we need to go to the other extreme and celebrate the use (and abuse) of substances, but there are plenty of people who drink, smoke pot, and even take other drugs recreationally and responsibly. This exhibit would do well to give us the whole picture and not just replicate the DARE, DEA, ONDCP perspective.

West of Main

Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

Diana, No, I haven't been to the exhibit; my impression was based on the writeup, which focuses on abuse and addiction. The name of the exhibit is &quot;Bad Habits,&quot; part of a LSA theme called &quot;Hooked,&quot; so it's not surprising that Lisa's overview emphasizes addiction and brain science. But it's good to know that the actual exhibits provides a more well-rounded look at substances.


Sun, Feb 5, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

I'm sorry. Have you been to see the exhibit? The actual discussion of addiction and dependence is only a small part of a much larger, balanced story that the exhibit tells.


Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 10:26 p.m.

Ann Arbor already celebrates recreational substance abuse. It is called the Hash Bash.

Linda Peck

Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

Very interesting. I happy to see the Museum display this. It is important and informational for all of us as dependence on mind/body altering substances affects us all.