Feb. 15, 2021 –  One of the earliest “shot” mentions Jon found was in the San Francisco Chronicle of March 2, 1889. A story headlined “The Hypo-Gun. How Morphine Victims Are Fed” describes the scene inside a drug house. The quotation marks and explanations suggest the writer thought much of this would be new to the reader:

“The morphine victim is cared for there — as long as he has money. In all the houses frequented by the ‘fiends’ is a man or a woman who sells the drug and injects it for a small sum. This useful person is called the ‘gunner,’ the syringe is termed the ‘gun,’ and administers to the fiend an injection, that is ‘a shot,’ for which he is paid 5 cents.” It looks like “shot” comes from “gun,” the euphemism for the apparatus that delivered the morphine.

“Shot” had a negative connotation in the waning years of the 19th century, used often in conjunction with morphine addiction:

“Defendant claimed and testified . . . that he was at home, about a half-block from Rathja’s saloon, administering what he calls a ‘shot’ of morphine to one Boyden.” (From “Reports of Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of California,” 1892.)



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