The natural source of morphine and the history of its use

The main natural source of opium is the terrestrial plant, Opium Poppy (papaver somniferum). Opium then acts as the source of most opiates such as Morphine (Ebadi 446). The ancient pioneers of Alchemy are said to have employed an opium-based elixir in their studies as an active pain killer. At around 1522, an alchemist known as Paracelsus recommended the use of this formulation as a painkiller. Upon the advent of trade-in opium-based products by Indians in the 18th century, many physicians and patients adapted the use of another opiate known as Laudanum. The discovery of Morphine dates back to 1804 when a German scientist, Friedrich Serturner, extracted the alkaloid from its natural source. It was introduced into the market around 1817 by the scientist and his company. It was meant for use as an analgesic for patients suffering from opium and alcohol addiction. Another active form of the drug, heroin was synthesized in 1874 and introduced to the public in 1898 by Bayer. Heroin is said to be 1-2 times more potent than its parent drug, morphine. Morphine had become the most abused drug in the world until the production of heroin (Maisto 37). This forced the US government to label it as a controlled substance in 1914. The analgesic strength of the two drugs was undisputed for quite a long time until other classes of opioids began to be synthesized by the late 20th Century. To date, morphine is still prescribed for opium addiction in case heroin is in short supply (Maisto 228).

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