Wednesday, June 29, 2016

History Affects Morphine: The Hypodermic Needle

From: itech.dickinson.edu, 4-30-08

“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

Image: historical perspective: old syringes


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