A patent medicine is a commercial product advertised (usually heavily) as an over-the-counter medicine, without regard to its actual effectiveness. Patent medicines were one of the first major product categories that the advertising industry promoted; patent medicine promoters pioneered many advertising and sales techniques that were later used for other products. Sellers of liniments, claimed to contain snake oil and falsely promoted as a cure-all, made the snake oil salesman a lasting symbol for a charlatan - Wikipedia(Patent_Medicine) .
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.
In the 19th century, hysteria was considered a diagnosable physical illness in women. It is assumed that the basis for diagnosis operated under the belief that women are predisposed to mental and behavioral conditions. Symptoms include Shortness of breath, Anxiety, Insomnia, Fainting, Amnesia, Paralysis, Pain, Spasms - Wikipedia(Hysteria) . During the 20th century, as psychiatry advanced in the West, anxiety and depression diagnoses began to replace hysteria.
Many of those "hysterical" women in the 19th century turned to the patent medicines of the day for relief, not unlike . Not surprising because many of those nostrums contained opium or cocaine, which were legal then. “Many proprietary or patent medicines were heavily advertised and contained high amounts of alcohol or opiate" - English History Authors . Indeed, many were called "women’s friends". Victorian Web [8 ], UK Science Museum 
As profitable as anti-depressants are, there are many drugs more profitable. In fact, none of the anti-depressants make it into the 50 top selling drugs. The top of that list is Humira, which had $20 billion in sales by itself. Followed by Keytruda, Eliquis, Revlimid, and Eylea, each of which had sales over $10 billion in 2020. I had to look these up. The top 50 are prescribed for cancer (lots of cancers), arthritis, blood clots, etc. - Drug Discovery Trends .
Moderna expects sales of $15 to $20 billion - Allied Market Research . The cynical part of me has to point out that the manufacturers of vaccines are shielded from liability.
“The pharma sector has generated global sales of about $1.1 trillion in 2019” - DW.com(Pfizer) .
Bringing the Bible Into It
What does the Bible say about drugs? At first glance, not much. There are some positive references like these.
Jeremiah refers to balm of Gilead Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11
- Paul writes of the medicinal use of wine 1 Timothy 5:23
- Church at Laodicea counseled to use eye salve Revelation 3:18
- They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. (Luke 5:31)
And some negative
“And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” 2 Chronicles 16:12
Pr 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. (Alcohol is a drug.)
"Not much" - that’s what I thought for over 40 years. This year I learned that there are references to drugs in the NT hidden in the translation. Consider:
Rev 18:23 … For your merchants were the great ones of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.
Bringing Linguistics Into It
Magos - Sorcerer (Acts 13:6,8)
Mageia - Sorceries (Acts 8:11)
Strong’s Concordance  shows a variety of definitions from the mundane to the evil.
Pharmakeia1) the use or the administering of drugs
3) sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it
4) metaph. the deceptions and seductions of idolatry
Bringing Others Into It
Let me give some quotes to show the spectrum of opinion about pharmakeia.
Magic and religion played a large part in the medicine of prehistoric or early human society. Administration of a vegetable drug or remedy by mouth was accompanied by incantations, dancing, grimaces, and all the tricks of the magician. Therefore, the first doctors, or “medicine men,” were witch doctors or sorcerers. The use of charms and talismans, still prevalent in modern times, is of ancient origin. Britannica(History_Of_Medicine) 
It is a fact that witchcraft and magic in the Greek world often involved the use of drugs–either by the witch or the one on whom the magic is worked. Evidence For Christianity 
But these original 'pharmacists' were involved in the black arts and in demonology; the basic idea was that taking certain potions could bring one into contact with the spirit world, and that this was to be desired.
To suggest that modern medical pharmacists are in any way associated with the 'black arts' is ludicrous.
It is ridiculous to blacken them (no pun intended!) because they borrowed a word which had sinister connotations in the original Greek. UK Apologetics 
Not everyone agrees it is ridiculous. Here is the opposite viewpoint.
These quotes represent the two extreme views concerning the meaning of pharmakeia.
Between The Extremes
|A History of Aspirin |
One claim in the quotes above is that certain drugs could bring one into contact with the spirit world. A lot of people think a spirit world exists - The Atlantic , whether that comes from religious sources, or from a sense that there is more than this physical existence. For a variety of reasons, some people want to contact that spirit world to have a spiritual experience. They seek knowledge, enlightenment, inner peace, guidance, power, protection, or maybe to influence uncertain events like healing illness - CGI . It becomes a Do-It-Yourself spiritual experience - DIY Salvation . The God of heaven does give certain people visions (I think more people claim to have visions than actually do). He gives visions for a purpose, and He initiates it. Typically He chooses people who obey Him (Nebuchadnezzar is an exception). He does not answer people who seek Him through drugs. "No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6". Who do you think you're contacting in the spirit world by using entheogenic* drugs? Some use Psychics trying to contact dead relatives, yet the Bible says "the dead know nothing - Eccl 9:5". The dead are not in heaven watching over you, and will remain dead until God resurrects them. Who do you think you're contacting in the spirit world by using Psychics?
Entheogen ("generating the divine within") is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context. Entheogens have been used in a ritualized context, in a number of different cultures, possibly for thousands of years. Examples of substances used by some cultures as entheogens include: peyote, psilocybin and Amanita muscaria (fly agaric) mushrooms, uncured tobacco, cannabis, ayahuasca, Salvia divinorum, and iboga. Wikipedia(Shamanism) 
Psychedelic drugs were not just discovered in the 20th century, humans have a long history using them. And it is not just the ancient Greeks who sought the spirit world with drugs - Nutty History(Greeks) , Nutty History(Vikings) , Nutty History(Ancient_Egypt) . Whatever you call them, shamans, witch doctors, medicine men, conjurers, mediums - they practiced their sorcery in many different cultures for millenia, and still do today in many countries - Knowledge Burrow , Wikiepedia(Regional_Forms_Shamanism) .
Actually, all the spiritualistic “arts” and “crafts” we hear so much about today are nothing more than modern manifestations of very ancient practices - CGI .
|Map of shamanism across the world  |
By Chiswick Chap - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Deceives The Whole World
Dismissing the use of pharmakeia as ridiculous doesn’t seem right. Let’s look at that verse again.
Rev 18:23 … For your merchants were the great ones of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your pharmakeia (sorcery).
It’s not just religious scholars or a couple fringe websites that have noticed the link between pharmakeia and sorcery.
The content manager of the Bible Gateway, an online search engine for the entire Bible, has revealed users searched for the words "sorceries" and "sorcery" in the Scriptures more than any other term in 2021. CBN News 
|Merchants of Babylon|
Rev 18 is talking about the judgment of Babylon. It could be that sorceries in vs 23 come from Babylon. Merchants are mentioned several times in the chapter, “waxing rich”, “weeping because no one buys their merchandise”, etc. Verses 22 and 23 appear to address Babylon directly.
Rev 18:23 The light of a lamp will never shine in you again, and the voices of a bride and bridegroom will never call out in you again. For your merchants were the great ones of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.”
The commentaries are in good agreement that these verses are talking about Rome - Christianity Beliefs .
What can we learn from all this? One small point is the challenge of translation. We all care about what the Bible says, and what it means when it says it. But it isn’t always easy to discern. Do we use a word’s meaning when it was written? Or what the word means today? Scholars wrestle over such things, but that level of scholarship is beyond me. Look at the difficulty in working out the meaning of one word.
Where do we draw the line between the two extreme interpretations of pharmakeia?
Here are some guidelines to help navigate the gray area in between the two extremes. I copied and edited most of these from a blog called Unpleasant Truths .
- Recognize that the pharmaceutical industry is driven by greed, and the love of money has been promoting drugs that suppress symptoms but do not really cure.
- In the pursuit of profit, all kinds of businesses perpetrate all kinds of trickeries, deceptions, lies and cheating.
- Don’t be involved with any medication, treatment or cure that call upon the spiritual world through mediums, chants, amulets, meditation and such. We don't worship angels, and we don't pray to angels.
- Be careful with medications that are addictive, or cause dependency, like painkillers or sleeping pills.
- Be on guard against medications that are mind-altering or cause hallucinations.
- You are in charge of your own health care. Biology is complex, so this is not always easy. Start with prayer – ask for wisdom, guidance, and healing. Starting with prayer is good for most situations in life.
- Given the caveats above: use medicinal herbs, and give thanks to God; use the medications of the doctors, and give thanks to God.