Leo E Hollister

HEROIN Morphine was first identified as the pain-relieving active ingredient in OPIUM in 1806. But morphine was not free of the habit-forming and toxic effects of opium. By the late nineteenth century, the idea of modifying molecules to change their pharmacological actions was well established. It seemed quite reasonable to use this approach to develop new chemical entities that might be free of the problems seen with morphine. In Germany, in 1898, H. Dresser introduced such a new drug— 3,6-diacetylmorphine—into medical use; it was named there by the Bayer Company, which produced and marketed it, named it heroin (presumably from heroisch, meaning "heroical"), because it was more potent than morphine.

Although heroin is structurally very similar to morphine, it was hoped that it would relieve PAIN without the tendency to produce ADDICTION. Turn-of-the-century medical writings and advertisements, both in Europe and the United States, claimed that heroin was effective for treating pain and cough. Many suggested that it was less toxic than morphine and was nonaddictive. A few even suggested that heroin could be a nonaddicting cure for the morphine habit. Clearly, this was not the case, and within a year or two of its introduction, most of the medical community knew so. By the 1920s, heroin had become the most widely abused of the OPIATES.

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