When morphine was first created in the early 1800s it transformed our relationship to pain and suffering. But it also brought about an addiction epidemic. Historian Mike Jay tells Bridget Kendall why medical professionals were among the first addicts.
Claims have hurt efforts to help people around world in acute pain, say palliative care experts
What has gotten lost in a lot of reporting about the crisis, and the regulatory guardrails that have been put in place to limit opioid prescribing, are the patients who genuinely need the drugs to make their excruciating existence at least somewhat tolerable.
We look at the long history of opioid abuse in the U.S. and the first crisis in the 19th century with morphine.
Throughout recorded human history we have searched for substances to dull pain. The most powerful painkillers are the opioids. Morphine, derived from the opium poppy, is an opioid that has been known to alchemists and medics for centuries. Morphine was one of the first ever medicines and has been available in a pure pharmacological form since 1817.
Australian and American scientists have found a way to halt a reaction in the brain that causes the side effects of morphine, potentially laying the groundwork for more effective therapeutic drugs.
The question is how to strike a balance between dangerous drugs and access for palliative care purposes - Manuel Dayrit, Department of Health, Philippines
One teaspoonful contained enough morphine to kill the average child. Many babies went to sleep after taking the medicine and never woke up again, leading to the syrup's nickname: the baby killer.
Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was hugely popular. In an 1868 court summary, Curtis reported selling more than 1.5 million bottles of the remedy annually.
By the time of the American Civil War, in the 1860s, morphine was a battlefield staple, shot into soldiers to ease the pain of wounds and to treat the dysentery and malaria that raged through military camps. Home gardens in both the North and the South were ablaze with poppies as citizens patriotically grew opium for their troops; the raw drug was then processed into morphine and rushed to the front. Millions of doses were given. Thousands of veterans with lifelong wounds were taught how to use syringes to self-administer the drug long after the war ended; morphine and syringes were sold by mail order and over the counter at drugstores.
With stressful jobs and easy access to pharmaceutical grade opiates, it's no wonder some doctors get hooked on the drugs they use on their patients.
When we think of how women were represented in 19th century art, Mary Cassatt’s high class matriarchs come to mind, enjoying their leisure hours with an afternoon stroll and a cup of tea. Yet seedier representations of the female gender were also produced in abundance, illuminating the trials of ladies for whom leisure hours were not an option at the time.
Concern over illicit use and addiction is putting morphine out of reach for millions of patients globally who need it for pain relief
Morphine may cause serious or life-threatening breathing problems, especially during the first 24 to 72 hours of your treatment and any time your dose is increased.
Management of pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment and for which alternative therapies are inadequate.