Lost Hospital Series — Bayer Heroin

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bayer1901Diacetylmorphine, more commonly known as heroin, is a semi-synthetic opioid drug synthesized from morphine, a derivative of the opium poppy.

Diacetylmorphine was first synthesized in 1874 by Charles Romley Alder Wright, an English chemistry and physics researcher at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. He had been trying to find a non-addictive form of opium. Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy.

In 1897, Felix Hoffman produced two new compounds for the company he worked for, Bayer, a chemical and pharmaceutical company founded in Barmen, Germany in 1863. These compounds were acetylsalicylic acid and diacetylmorphine. They noted that acetylsalicylic acid was effective in relieving minor aches and pains and diacetylmorphine was a very effective at relieving moderate pain and alleviating the symptoms of various breathing disorders like asthma, bronchitis, and tuberculosis.

In 1898, Bayer registered and marketed diacetylmorphine under the brand name “Heroin.” The word itself comes from the German word “heroisch,” which means heroic. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Bayer marketed Heroin” as a cough suppressant. In 1899, the Bayer marketed acetylsalicylic acid as “Aspirin.” In its early days, “Heroin” which was believed to be a non addictive substitute for morphine.

Photograph Credit from Bayer Heroin Bottle (circa 1914-1918). Originally it contained five grams of Bayer Heroin.

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Posted: October 12, 2011

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