Stepping Out of the Classroom: A Visit to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

On November 1st, students currently enrolled in PHAR 535 (Introduction to Psychiatric Pharmacy) and 546 (History of Pharmacy) were treated to one last Halloween fright! Students and their professors visited the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA) in Weston, WV, which currently functions as a haunted house by night and educational, historical landmark by day.

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Exploring the TALA Pharmacy

The lunatic asylum housed individuals from West Virginia and surrounding states from approximately 1864 until 1994. Patients were placed in the asylum for multiple reasons ranging from snakebites, childbirth, and of course, mental instability. The tour featured multiple buildings located on the more than 300-acre grounds currently owned by the Jordan family, who bought the asylum in order to preserve a piece of history and prevent its destruction.

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Walking the halls . . .

Students participating were able to step back in time and view medical treatment for psychiatric illness from a historical perspective. In addition, students visited the remnants of the asylum’s pharmacy, an onsite museum where both medical artifacts depicting psychiatric treatments and remedies of the past, and a gallery of patient artwork. The goal of the visit was to allow UC SOP student pharmacists to view the progression of psychiatric treatment from the mid-1800s to today.

“During the tour, I was able to see how much the field of medicine has changed throughout the years. Located on the grounds is a hospital, as well as an old pharmacy, which depicted many of the drugs and instruments used during the time the asylum operated. The experience was interesting and did a wonderful job of showing us just how far we as medical professionals have advanced over the past few centuries. Personally speaking, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to visit a piece of West Virginian history and to see how different things were years ago. I recommend visiting this institution for those who are medical personnel or even just seeking an adventure.” -Chadrick Small (P2), PHAR 546

“Visiting TALA was a unique experience that I was able to attain through my Psychiatric Pharmacy course. Attending TALA enabled me to see just how far medicine has come since the opening of the hospital. One of the most interesting facts I learned while in Weston was how women were admitted into lunatic asylums in the early 1900s. Women could be admitted to the hospital for whatever reason her husband deemed fit. Examples of reasons included wives reading too many novels or talking too much. I was surprised by this information because although I knew that women were not considered equal to men at that time, I did not realize that husbands were entitled to treat their wives so poorly. Overall, I greatly enjoyed visiting TALA for a tour of the facility. It was an interesting experience that I most likely would not have gotten if it had not been for my Psychiatric Pharmacy course. The experience expanded my knowledge of the history of psychiatric medicine and I am happy to have had the opportunity to attend.”  –Jenny Long (P2), PHAR 535

Learn more about TALA by visiting: http://trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com/

Contributed by Peter Relvas UC SOP Pharmacy Student & Graduate Intern, Office of Professional and Student Affairs

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