When Heroin and Cocaine were used as medicine!

When Heroin and Cocaine were used as medicine!

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(on video) Is medicine catching up with science fiction? Some of the recent developments in medicine may remind us of what we read or see…


Some substances and products are now considered dangerous… but sometimes in the past they have been attributed therapeutic or aesthetic properties. Sad mistake. our series time false positives in health », we come back to radioactivity, but also to alcohol, heroin, oil and cigarettes.

Many drugs currently being abused began their careers as “extremely useful” and beneficial drugs. This is the case for others including heroin, cocaine, cannabis or even amphetamines.

A bit of a throwback to the most well-known substances, when the uses were legal and even popular. What were his “qualities”?

Cannabis and hashish are good for everything

Although widely used since ancient times in many cultures, cannabis was only recently introduced to Western medicine by the Irish physician William Brooke O’Shaughnessy.

the professor of Calcutta Medical College In 1839, the first article describing its anticonvulsant properties was published. After returning to London in 1842, he came into contact with the pharmacist Peter Squire, who prepared the first commercial cannabis extract – sold as “Squire’s Extract”.

Subsequently, Sir John Russell Reynolds, personal physician to Queen Victoria of England (besides, he would write it for her), published in the Journal in 1890. the LancetAn article summarizing his thirty years of clinical experience with cannabis in the treatment of insomnia, neuralgia, headache, epilepsy or dysmenorrhea, among other disorders.

late 19thI Shatabdi, cannabis or hashish, in various forms, is widely used and has established itself in all Western pharmacopoeias. However, its medical use would decline after it was removed from the British Pharmacopoeia in 1932.

Freud, Coca and Depression

Cocaine, an alkaloid obtained from the coca plant (erythroxylon coca) isolated by the German chemist Albert Niemann in 1859, was marketed as a drug in the United States in 1882. Then it was mainly recommended against dental pain in children and to treat rheumatism.

But the real discoverer of its medicinal properties is the father of psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud, in his youth, was more inclined towards research than the practice of medicine, which he had a genuine aversion to.

In 1884, he found an article by a German military doctor titled ” Importance and Psychological Effects of Cocaine “. Although he had never heard of this substance, he immediately saw its potential against certain mental illnesses.

From then on, Freud began his studies on cocaine. First, he experiences it himself and sees an improvement in his depressive condition, as well as an increase in his self-confidence and ability to work. During their tests, they also noticed that after taking it their tongue and lips became numb and it relieved the pain in the oral mucosa and the pain caused by gingivitis.

In 1884 he wrote his famous work about coca (“On coca”), in which he claims that this substance is a very effective drug for combating depression, eliminating gastric disorders of nervous origin, and increasing physical and intellectual performance. They also claimed that it is not habit forming, no side effects, no harm…

Then, after five conversion articles, the psychoanalyst does a complete reversal. After noting its undesirable effects—notably the death of his friend and colleague Ernst Flüschel—he would eventually refuse to incorporate it into his entire work.

However, he recommends it to ophthalmologist Karl Koller, who attests to its great effectiveness, mixed in eye drops, as an anesthetic in eye surgery such as cataracts.

With this discovery, medicine took a huge step forward and local anesthesia was born.

However, cocaine’s greatest “medical” success came from its appearance at the turn of the century in a vast number of “miracle elixirs” sold for its purported energizing and invigorating properties. The most famous of these was the wine of the Corsican chemist and pharmacist Angelo Mariani: a Bordeaux wine mixed with coca leaves, all patented under the name “Vin Mariani”.

Mariani established the first major industry based on coca in 1863, and even received an honor from Pope Leo XIII for his services to humanity. The French drink quickly became popular.

Interval: Coca…Cola

In the United States, pharmacist John Stith Pemberton created an alcohol-free substitute for Mariani wine in 1886 – which he called “”. French Wine Coca ,

This nervine tonic and stimulant was reformulated the following year under the name “”. Coca-Cola “. The Coca-Cola Company was founded in 1886 and first marketed its product as a headache cure and stimulant and a pleasant drink: “A medicinal intellectual and temperamental drink. »

While the Coca-Cola Company removed cocaine from its drink in 1903, replacing it with caffeine and decanoate coca leaves as a flavoring, it was still present in about 69 other drinks in the United States in 1909 .

Heroin is safer than morphine.

Heroin was originally developed to enhance the safety of morphine, a highly addictive opium alkaloid – not as an analgesic agent.

Diacetylmorphine, its technical name, was synthesized in 1874 by the chemist Elder Wright. Saint-Marie’s Hospital Medical School By treating morphine with organic acids in London. Despite its ability to lower blood pressure and respiratory rate, it is of little clinical interest. No more in the following years, when it was discovered that it also soothed coughs and facilitated sleep in patients suffering from tuberculosis?

Ultimately it is Heinrich Dreiser of the pharmaceutical company Friedrich Bayer & Co. who would be interested in diacetylmorphine. At first he sees in it a solution that is more potent at relieving pain and a more acceptable molecule than sulphurous morphine.

It was marketed in 1898 to calm coughs. Dresser would describe this drug as a “heroic drug”… hence the trade name Bayer would use: ” heroin “. Thereafter it found rapid and worldwide commercial success, particularly as an antitussive.

Amphetamine… for nasal congestion

In the late 1920s, the commercial monopoly ofephedra vulgaris, the plant from which ephedrine is derived, leading to a depletion of this active ingredient and an increase in cost. This is leading to the development of therapeutic options for treating asthma and airway congestion.

Amphetamine, synthesized in 1887 by Japanese chemist Nagayoshi Nagai, is studied and marketed by Smith, Kline and French laboratories for use as a nasal decongestant.

Its medical use peaked in the 1960s. In Great Britain, 2.5% of all official prescriptions in 1959 were preparations containing amphetamines… Then we moved away from early use because these molecules were then recommended as anorectics (appetite suppressants), rather than epilepsy, Also for the treatment of schizophrenia, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury and sexual dysfunction.

Ecstasy, Ketamine, etc.

The prototype of the “designer drug”, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), commonly known as “ecstasy”, was created in 1914 at the German laboratory Merck as an appetite suppressant. It will never be marketed.

On the other hand, it was soon used by the US Navy for research purposes in the 1950s and 1960s and in the 1970s to facilitate communication between psychiatrist and patient.

Other recent additions to the recreational arsenal also come from the medical world, and specifically from the world of anesthetics:

  • phencyclidine, known on the illegal market as “angel dust”;
  • Ketamine, another general anesthetic, is used primarily in children and the elderly, as well as in veterinary surgery. It found recreational use (“ketas”, “special K”) in the 1990s when its psychedelic effects were accidentally discovered;
  • Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), or “liquid ecstasy”, is still an anesthetic that used to be used in the treatment of cerebral edema and alcoholism, and as an ingredient in a dietary supplement at the gym.

Medical use has been questioned since its inception

The incidence of intoxication associated with the use of heroin and cocaine was known only in the first decades of the XXI century. Pure Food and Drug Act In 1906 the first ban on the manufacture of the two substances was imposed.

In 1914, cocaine became illegal in the United States Harrison Narcotic Control Act And, a decade later, in 1924, heroin was banned.

Eventually, in 1937, marijuana tax act has been published, which bans the consumption of cannabis, which is now included in the list of prohibited substances of the Narcotic Drugs Convention in 1961.

These are all clear examples of the shift from “hero” to “villain,” in the pharmaceutical metaphor.Conversation





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