History Of Narcotic Agents

a. There is evidence that the opium poppy was used in Sumeria as early as 4000 B.C., and it is mentioned in the medical records of ancient Greece and Rome. During the Dark Ages, it passed to the Arabs, who took it to China about 900 A.D. It was either smoked or taken orally.

b. Opium was first used injectably around 1800; the U.S. Civil War saw the first widespread use in this manner. Because of a lack of knowledge and caution, a condition called "Soldier's Disease" was described--addiction. This coupled with the large influx of Chinese laborers who smoked, and the ready availability of opium caused a great deal of concern. There were no packaging or distribution laws; indeed, a children's formulation was marketed called "Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup." This concern was an important factor in motivation for the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

c. In 1805, a German Pharmacist's assistant isolated a pure alkaloid (a basic substance found usually in plant parts) from opium that he called morphine. It was subsequently found that opium contains two general categories of alkaloids; narcotics (phenanthrene) such as morphine and codeine, and nonnarcotics (benzylisoquinoline)

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