Lexington Narcotic Farm

The United States Narcotic Farm was opened in 1935 in Lexington to treat drugs addicts. This was a revolutionary time, prior to this addicts were seen as criminals. The Farm treated both prisoners and voluntary patients, and did not distinguish between the two types of patients once they got to the Farm. There were many ethical concerns associated with the research methods used by the Doctors, as they were often coercive and life-threatening. Nonetheless, some of today's best narcotics research was conducted at this facility. This timeline aims to capture what life was like for patients at the Narcotic Farm. It was completed as part of a project for the University of Kentucky's Special Collections Library Learning Lab Internship.

1914-01-01 06:43:26

The Harrison Narcotics Act is signed

In 1914, the Harrison Narcotic Act was passed to regulate the production and regulation of narcotic drugs. This was the first recognition that there was a problem with drugs in the United States. Because of this, the government realized the need for a place to treat drug addicts. This photo shows the beginning of construction on the Narcotic Farm in Lexington in 1929. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1928-01-01 14:56:21

Landscape before Construction

The first cornerstone for the Narcotic Farm was laid in 1933. However, much planning took place before then. This picture shows the empty land in Lexington, Ky., that was purchased to become the Narcotic Farm. Its flat surface and isolation made it an ideal location. Source: Explore UK

1930-01-01 12:47:40

Physical Examination

Patients underwent an extensive evaluation upon entering the Narcotic Farm. This evaluation was important in determining a patient's ability to take part in experiments. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1930-01-01 13:11:15

Recreation at the Farm

The patients were offered several recreational activities at the Narcotic Farm. The doctors believed it was important for the patients to have things to take their minds off of the difficulties of treatment. The Narcotic Farm had its own bowling alley, and offered many other recreational activities. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1930-01-01 14:56:21

Perry Lumber Company Truck

This picture shows a Perry Lumber Company Truck carrying supplies to begin building the Narcotic Farm. This company, based out of Pennsylvania, was contracted to provide lumber for the construction of the Farm. Source: Explore UK

1930-01-01 18:08:22

Work at the Farm

Each patient was expected to perform a daily job. These jobs helped contribute to keeping up the livelihood of the Farm. These jobs included woodworking, painting, and working in a tailor shop.Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1930-01-01 23:41:23

Patient in Laboratory

Patient learning technical skill in laboratory diagnostic procedures. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1931-01-01 03:13:34

Day Room at the Narcotic Farm

Many of the patients were brought to the Farm from prison, but were treated alongside voluntary patients. The atmosphere of the Farm was certainly more like a rehabilitation facility than a prison, as can be seen in this picture of a pleasant day room in the Narcotic Farm. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1932-01-01 08:55:08

Testing on Patient

Patients had the opportunity to take part in research studies at the Research Addiction Center at the Farm. Patients that agreed to participate were rewarded with a dose of the drug of their choice. Here, a patient's emotional reaction is tested while he is under the influence of drugs. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1933-01-01 02:34:38

Construction of the Farm

James A. Wetmore was the main architect of the Narcotic Farm. It is built on top of a cemetery. The US Treasury Department was in charge of the design of the building (Campbell, Olsen, and Walden, "The Narcotic Farm"). Source: Explore UK

1934-01-01 13:31:30

Doctor Treating Patient

The procedure of giving shots to a patient have changed significantly over time. This doctor is wearing no gloves, has no bandage ready, and probably did not disinfect the area. Like ethics, sanitation was viewed completely differently during this time.

1935-01-01 04:04:48

Dedication of the Narcotic Farm

The opening of the Narcotic Farm in Lexington brought much attention. A ceremony took place before the patients were admitted to celebrate the completion of the long project that had started more than 5 years earlier. Guests at the Narcotic Farm's dedication ceremony had to travel a far distance because of the location of the farm. The contractors knew that space would be important to the patients. The peace and quiet was invaluable, along with the space to have recreation and tend to livestock. Source: ExploreUK

1936-01-01 02:34:38

Dentist Office

Patients were treated like they would be if they were in any medical facility. This came to a shock for many patients that had just come from prison. Dentistry was not as widespread during this time period. Source: Explore UK

1936-05-15 16:49:53

Kentucky Kernel

The community often held events at the Narcotic Farm. This article from the Kentucky Kernel describes an event being held in the auditorium at the Farm. Source: Explore UK

1941-08-19 04:43:06

Narcotics Farm Videos

Patient life at the Narcotic Farm was very fascinating. While many activities were mundane, such as therapy and work, the patients also partake in a great deal of recreation. These videos give us a glimpse into everyday life of a patient. Source: Kentucky Historical Sociey

1950-01-01 03:13:34

Patients in Common Area

Many of the patients that were treated at the Narcotic Farm were readmitted multiple times throughout their lives. For many, relapse was inevitable and the lifestyle at the farm was more comfortable than living in poverty. Patients were provided many luxuries, such as watching television. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1950-01-01 23:41:23

Patients Working

Each patient was expected to contribute to the maintenance of the farm. They were given daily chores that also served as a form of occupational therapy. This picture shows a patient working in the carpenter shop. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1960-01-01 03:13:34

Activities at the Narcotic Farm

The auditorium at the Narcotic Farm was spacious. The ample number of seats allowed for plenty of audience members from the community or for the patients themselves. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1960-01-01 18:08:22

Addiction Research Center

Patients were monitored as they participated in research at the Addiction Research Center. Some studies were even covertly funded by the CIA to research the impacts of LSD, in hopes to use it during wars to attain information. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1961-01-01 03:13:34

Patient Plays Miniature Golf

Another recreational activity the patients could enjoy was miniature golf. The farm was built on 1,000 acres of land, allowing plenty of room for the patients to roam outdoors. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1962-01-01 22:51:12

Jazz music

The atmosphere of the Narcotic Farm was always integrated with aspects of jazz culture. This large group on the lawn of the Farm would not be complete without the double bass in the background.

1964-01-01 20:15:54


Patients at the Narcotic Farm could also work binding books. Working with their hands was a therapeutic task for many patients. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1965-01-01 16:34:53

Chart of Drug Usage and Admissions

There was also a drug treatment facility in Ft. Worth, Texas. These charts compare the amount of average drug use by patients in each hospital and the average patient admissions. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1970-01-01 18:56:29

An Addict Cooking Drugs

Upon participating in studies at the Research Addiction Center, patients signed a consent form that stated that they are willing to receive doses of narcotics until six months before their release dates. Included in Addiction Research Center's consent form was that all patients signing it were of "sound mind" and that they were not persuaded by Medical Staff. However, it was later discovered that patients received drugs as rewards for participating. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1970-01-01 18:56:29

ARC Equipment

The Addiction Research Center had state of the art equipment. Doctors saw the patients at the Narcotic Farm as a unique opportunity to research the affects of different drugs. To them, ethics were not a concern because their goal was to find the best treatment possible. Source: Kentucky Historical Society

1974-02-01 22:47:48

Narcotics Farm converts

The Narcotics Farm becomes a federal prison, dropping the hospital portion of its services, but still maintaining a psychiatric hospital where prisoners with mental health issues are sent.

Lexington Narcotic Farm

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