Station: [7] Poisons and Narcotics Cabinet

This is where they store the stuff you read about in crime novels. 

Every pharmacy has a lockable poison and narcotics cabinet like this one. Of course, we have no plans to do our customers in with our poisons, nor do we want to provide material for a thriller. Traditionally, every pharmacy deals with poisons. We see them as powerfully effective medicinal substances.

Go ahead and open the cabinet! We’re actually making an exception here, because normally, only the pharmacist is allowed to do that. The poisons are on the left, while the narcotics are stored on the right, behind the other cupboard door.

Poisons include plant alkaloids, such as atropine; mineral toxins, such as arsenic; and mercury salts, which were used to treat parasitic diseases.

In the past, poisons could only be dispensed in exchange for coupons, which had to be issued by the mayor or another official. All cases were meticulously recorded. 

Narcotics include opiates, but also sleeping pills containing barbiturates. These preparations also had to be kept under lock and key. Today, it’s even mandatory to keep them in a narcotics storage safe. 

Containers used for poisons and narcotics used to have a special shape. Until 1968, morphine salts, for example, had to be kept in triangular storage vessels. But the shape of the containers wasn’t the only feature that made them eye-catching – so did the labelling. Take a look at the upper display case. Black lettering on white indicates a substance with a mild effect. Red lettering on white means a powerfully acting substance. And white on black means: Watch out, poison!

The drawers beneath the poisons and narcotics cabinet contain medicinal teas, or tisanes – known as “Drogen”, “drugs” in the trade. By all means open the drawers. You’ll discover a range and variety rarely found in pharmacies these days.

All depictions: © Trüpschuch