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Day 5 of Our 31 Day Series of How Medicine Got It Wrong

The Heinous History of Heroin

The history of heroin replacing morphine can be traced back to the late 19th century when Bayer, a German pharmaceutical company, synthesized diacetylmorphine, which they marketed under the brand name "Heroin." The company believed that the drug could be a less addictive and safer alternative to morphine, which was widely used at the time for pain relief.

However, it soon became apparent that heroin was even more addictive than morphine, and its use quickly spread to become a major public health problem. Heroin was initially used to treat morphine addiction, but it soon became a drug of abuse in its own right. The drug was particularly popular among young people and urban populations.

The addictive properties of heroin are due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier rapidly and bind to specific receptors in the brain. This leads to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. Over time, repeated heroin use can lead to changes in the brain that result in physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

Bayer also marketed a children's version of the drug called "Heroin Aspirin," which was sold as a cough suppressant and pain reliever for children. However, the use of this product was discontinued in the 1920s due to the growing awareness of the dangers of heroin addiction and abuse.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) eventually classified heroin as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse and dependence. Today, heroin is illegal in most countries and is considered one of the most dangerous and addictive drugs. Its use is associated with a range of negative health outcomes, including overdose, infectious diseases, and mental health problems.

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  1. "From Morphine to Heroin: The Regulation of Narcotic Drugs in the United States, 1890-1920" by David F. Musto, published in the Journal of Social History in 1977.

  2. "The History of Heroin" by American Addiction Centers, updated in 2021.

  3. "The Opioid Epidemic: A Historical Overview" by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, last updated in 2021.

  4. "Heroin" by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), last updated in 2021.

  5. "Heroin and Aspirin: The Bayer Connection" by John H. Lienhard, published on the University of Houston's Engineering and Technology History Wiki.

  6. Image: Heroin: The Deadly Narcotic That Was Once A Medicine, History Collection

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