“Heroin. The sedative for coughs” Bayer advertisement from the late 1800s
When I was pregnant with my first child I spent a lot of time considering the pain I was about to experience during childbirth. I was determined to have a plan - just like the childbirth books told me I must have. I was quite sure that with determination I would need no more than a TENS machine and positive thinking. Ha. Totally didn't work.
During one visit to my Obstetrician I explained that I had this well thought out plan. He looked at me, raised an eyebrow, and said you know the best possible treatment for pain in childbirth is a dose of Heroin.
Oh yes, he continued, after it was made illegal to produce Heroin for medicinal purposes in Australia we stockpiled it [at this hospital] and only ran out in the late 1980s.
Apparently doctors in Britain can still prescribe Heroin (as the drug Diamorphine) in cases of extreme pain – usually patients experiencing trauma, cancer ... or childbirth.
Heroin, along with other drugs now classed as illegal narcotics such as cocoa leaf and marijuana, were common ingredients in many medicines and ‘tonics’ at the turn of the 20th century, even those targeted at babies and toddlers.
We are a drug-taking society – be it coffee, nicotine, alcohol, prescribed drugs, illicit drugs or chocolate. The artificial stimulation of the senses occupies a part of many of our days. Now I’m not about to call for the legalisation of cocaine-based teething solutions for babies or heroin-based cough mixture but it did make me wonder what drugs we freely take today that in fifty years time will be deemed illegal or, at least, shocking?