Morphine and Addiction in the 1930s

Morphine has been around for a long time. It is made from the opium poppy, which is also the source of highly addictive opium, the original drug that many modern and dangerous opioid drugs mimic. Morphine was first marketed in the early 1800s as a treatment for extreme pain, severe coughs, and even chronic diarrhea.

Morphine is helpful, especially as an aid to serious procedures like surgery—but it is also very dangerous. It is addictive and can be deadly. Morphine was sold without any restrictions until 1914, when it was then classified as a controlled substance.

The most notable derivative of morphine is heroin, which was synthesized from morphine as early as the 1870s. Heroin was originally used for medical purposes and was sold by the well-known drug company Bayer. Heroin became well known by the 1890s. Prior to the introduction of heroin, morphine had been the mostly commonly abused narcotic analgesic in the world.

Why Would Anyone Use Morphine?

Morphine began as a medical treatment for pain. At one point, morphine was even thought to treat opium addiction and alcohol addiction. Later, people discovered that morphine was actually more addictive than either opium or alcohol.

By 1930, János Kábay, a chemist, determined a method to derive morphine from poppy straw, thus increasing its availability and use. Today, more than 230 tons of morphine are used each year for medical purposes– including pain relief for patients with chronic pain or advanced medical illness and post-operative analgesia. In small, controlled doses, morphine has some use as a temporary treatment for severe pain.

 

Addiction in the 1930s

Morphine’s use during the Civil War and World War II has been widely documented. During the Civil War, over 400,000 people presented with morphine addiction that was referred to as “soldier’s disease.” During World War II with the invention of the syrette (a single-dose syringe designed to prevent overdose), medics administered morphine to alleviate pain. A notable precaution on the part of the medics was to pin the syrette to the soldier’s collar in an effort to prevent overdose.

While morphine was accepted as the gold standard against which all new medications for postoperative pain relief are compared, many people were abusing morphine.

By the 1930’s, morphine addiction had become a real issue, and it impacted people of all classes, races, and backgrounds. Most people had become familiar with the name of this drug after WWI. One of the most noted instances of abuse during that period was when Sigmund Freud’s physician administered three doses of morphine to Dr. Freud that resulted in his death in 1939.

In the 1930s, the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) took responsibility for drug policy enforcement. The FBN spearheaded anti-drug crusades to criminalize narcotics possession. In 1951, the Boggs Act imposed a mandatory minimum two-year sentence for possession. The Narcotic Control Act of 1956 raised the minimum sentence for a third offense to 10 to 40 years and permitted death sentences for drug sellers who dealt to minors.

Dangers and Side Effects of Morphine Use

Most side effects associated with limited, monitored morphine use are mild and often require no treatment, including:

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating

 

Morphine abuse and morphine dependence can create much more serious side effects that include all of the side-effects listed above, plus:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Withdrawals
  • Changes in temperament
  • Marked anger or irritability
  • Inability to wake up
  • Shaking
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Death

Help for Morphine Addiction

Recovering from morphine with proper medical supervision and support services is possible. If you or someone you know is addicted to morphine, call our toll free number today at 678-251-3189. We are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about morphine addiction treatment. We are here to help.


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