The Role of Chemistry in History

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History Affects Morphine: The Hypodermic Needle

April 30th, 2008 · No Comments ·

Morphine: An Introduction | Discovery and Synthesis of Morphine | Addiction and Opiate Receptors | Morphine Affects History: Modern Pharmacology | History Affects Morphine: The Hypodermic Needle | History Affects Morphine II: Cultural Antipathy and Anti-Narcotics Law| References

“Ah! Pierce me one hundred times with your needle fine
And I will thank you one hundred times,
Saint Morphine,
You who Aesculapus has made a God.”
Jules Verne
(Poem taken from In the Arms of Morpheus by Barbara Hodgson)

  • Despite its impact on the science of pharmacology, morphine had limited medical impact until the invention of the hypodermic needle in the 1840s/1850s

  • A number of individuals are associated with the invention of the hypodermic needle, but among them, Alexander Wood, a Scottish physician, is perhaps the most prominent

  • Wood used morphine in conjunction with his newly invented needle to treat a patient with neuralgia, otherwise known as a sharp pain in the nerves; unfortunately, Wood also used his device on both he and his wife, and both became addicted. In fact, Wood’s wife became the first woman to die of a narcotic drug overdose

  • In light of this, however, Wood found that upon injection, morphine’s results were both immediate and much more powerful, certainly a success; such success led to a rise in the medical use of morphine, especially in the realm of surgery and anesthesia

  • Unfortunately, though, morphine administered through hypodermic needle was not thought to be addictive, and thus it further proliferated the drug, increasing use and addiction

  • Interestingly, it is worth noting that shortly after the time of the hypodermic needle’s inception, there began a debate over whether the effects of morphine post-injection were localized or not; and while many believe the effects to be non-localized – hence the name hypodermic – the debate actually continues to this day

Historical perspective: old syringes

Tags: Morphine