An examination of the history of drugs in the 18th and 19th centuries is a first step towards putting into perspective the contemporary drug problem, its control and tie conceptions of drugs within the context of race. Drug use developed another meaning in Britain in the late 1940s and in the 1950s with the arrival of West Indian immigrants into Britain, and Britain, it was alleged, had her first experience of reasonably large numbers of people smoking a 'new' type of drug—cannabis. Of the drugs abused in the 1980s, the misuse of heroin, cannabis and cocaine caused the greatest concern. In relation to cocaine, the previous popular impression of the drug as being too expensive for the 'ordinary' individual, and being virtually limited to the higher echelons changed in the 1980s its abuse penetrated different parts of the country and social classes.