"Physicians and psychiatrists-to say nothing of patients suffering from psychic disorders-have long searched for pharmacological ways to ease emotional suffering, even if that suffering could never be medicated away entirely. In the Victorian era, the drug of choice was laudanum, a high-octane mix of ethanol and opium that packed just the chemical wallop it sounds it would. The drug was used as a painkiller, an antidepressant and an antihysteric, and it often worked quite well-provided you overlooked the fact that it was also wildly addictive and frequently lethal." .
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Medicines have been used in the treatment of mental illnesses for thousands of years. In the past herbs along with forms of magic might have been used to try to alleviate mental health problems. Opium is a drug that has been used for centuries, since the days of Jesus by the Greeks, in the battle that many faced even then for mental balance.
Opium was used for both pain relief, and relief from depression
and other mental health disorders throughout history, from pre-Christian times, until recently. It's use continued throughout the centuries until the 1700s and 1800s when it had become a popular over-the-counter drug that was used not only to help calm a person's nerves, but also used in many children's elixir's as an aid with crying fits or tantrums. 
Opium fell out of mainstream use in the earlier part of the 20th century, and along with it, the over the counter use of cocaine with the passing of laws that limited their use. Some painkillers today and other psychiatric medications
are opiate based or have a similar chemical structure. Some psychiatric medications
have a similar chemical structure to heroin, although its administration and use is different.
Cocaine and Amphetamines
Cocaine was commonly used not only for its mood elevating effects," but also was even added to Coca-Cola up until the early 1900s. It was part of the picker-upper in the popular soft drink. With stricter drug laws, the potent coco leaves were replaced with impotent leaves, taking the stimulant effect out of Coke around the year 1904.
, the well known psychiatrist
, experimented with cocaine, not only for himself, but also as an aid for his psychiatric patients. However, in the 1930s, began a new era in the use of drugs for mental health. In the 30's, amphetamines
, a stimulant, were discovered to calm down some children who were difficult to control. Their use with children really didn't gain momentum until the 1960s and 70s. In the 1980s and 90s, until today their use has proliferated.
, a popular stimulant for children, not a true amphetamine, but similar in nature, came on the market in 1955 but the widespread use of amphetamines for children became more common only in the 1970s. This has led to the time today when Ritalin
, similar to an amphetamine, Adderall, a true amphetamine, and other stimulants are used routinely in treating ADHD
in adults and children, and have become almost household words.
History of Barbiturates
came into use in the 1930s, also used to calm down or sedate adults. Barbiturates are used in the treatment of children and adults for seizures and with epilepsy. Barbiturates have a tremendous potential for abuse. Extreme caution must be used in taking barbiturates.
See: Barbiturates - Intoxication and Overdose
Barbiturates were first introduced for medical use in the early 1900s. More than 2,500 barbiturates have been synthesized, and at the height of their popularity, about 50 were marketed for human use. Today, about a dozen are in medical use. Barbiturates produce a wide spectrum of central nervous system depression, from mild sedation to coma, and have been used as sedatives, hypnotics, anesthetics, and anticonvulsants
. The primary differences among many of these products are how fast they produce an effect and how long those effects last. Barbiturates are classified as ultrashort, short, intermediate, and long-acting.
Long-acting barbiturates include phenobarbital (Luminal®) and mephobarbital (Mebaral®), both of which are in Schedule IV. Effects of these drugs are realized in about one hour and last for about 12 hours, and are used primarily for daytime sedation and the treatment of seizure disorders.
Valium, SSRIs, antidepressants, Quaaludes
The boundary between legal and illegal drugs is permeable and constantly shifting, as illustrated by the example of Quaalues, a hypnotic tranquilizer, which fell out of common use in the 1980s, but which was also heavily used as a street drug.
Valium, a tranquilizer in the 1970s and 80s led to the use of SSRIs, antidepressants
, said to be safer than Valium, from the 1980s until today. The use of Quaaludes, a hypnotic tranquilizer, used both as a prescription drug and as a street drug, fell out of common use in the 1980s, because of the dangers of overdose associated with it. Quaaludes are like a modern day manufactured opium in its effects. Mellaril is a similar minor (or major) tranquilizer, and it also can have a slightly hypnotic effect and was developed from the first drug to be widely used in psychiatric hospitals
Actually, even today, there is a "grey area" between prescription drugs and street drugs. Many drugs that are sold legally by prescription for mood disorders, are also sold on the street under the same or different names for both "kicks" and for their mood mood or performance enhancing properties. Ritalin
is sold by prescription, but also on the street, with street names, and is 4th on the list of abused drugs, the three others being marijuana
, heroin, and cocaine
Additional information - Narcotics:
The term "narcotic,"
derived from the Greek word for stupor,
originally referred to a variety of substances that dulled the senses and relieved pain.
Today, the term is used in a number of ways. Some individuals define narcotics as those substances that bind at opiate receptors (cellular membrane proteins activated by substances like heroin or morphine) while others refer to any illicit substance as a narcotic.
In a legal context, narcotic refers to opium, opium derivatives, and their semi-synthetic substitutes. Cocaine and coca leaves,
which are also classified as "narcotics" in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), neither bind opiate receptors nor produce morphine-like effects, and are stimulants. For the purposes of this discussion, the term narcotic refers to drugs that produce morphine-like effects.
Narcotics are used therapeutically to treat pain, suppress cough, alleviate diarrhea and induce anesthesia.
Narcotics are administered in a variety of ways. Some are taken orally, transdermally (skin patches), or injected. They are also available in suppositories. As drugs of abuse, they are often smoked, sniffed, or injected. Drug effects depend heavily on the dose, route of administration, and previous exposure to the drug.
Aside from their medical use, narcotics produce a general sense of well-being by reducing tension, anxiety
, and aggression. These effects are helpful in a therapeutic setting but contribute to their abuse.
Narcotic use is associated with a variety of unwanted effects including drowsiness, inability to concentrate, apathy, lessened physical activity, constriction of the pupils, dilation of the subcutaneous blood vessels causing flushing of the face and neck, constipation, nausea and vomiting, and most significantly, respiratory depression. As the dose is increased, the subjective, analgesic (pain relief), and toxic effect become more pronounced. Except in cases of acute intoxication, there is no loss of motor coordination or slurred speech as occurs with many depressants.
How opium is derived from the poppy:
The poppy Papaver somniferum is the source for non-synthetic narcotics. It was grown in the Mediterranean region as early as 5000 B.C., and has since been cultivated in a number of countries throughout the world. The milky fluid that seeps from incisions in the unripe seedpod of this poppy has, since ancient times, been scraped by hand and air-dried to produce what is known as opium.
Lithium in Treating Manic Depression and Bipolar Disorder
"In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, lithium
was the hot new thing. A chemical salt derived from an alkali metal, lithium did not provide the intoxication landanum did and was used mostly to ease the manic cycles suffered by patients with bipolar disorder
" (manic depression). Drugs such as lithium, however, are described as being one that is something of a "blunt instrument," with sometimes unbearable side effects like "thirst, weight gain, lethargy, and memory impairment,"  not to mention emotional detachment, emotional emptiness, or a dulling of emotional feeling.
Technical Information on Barbiturates
The ultrashort-acting barbiturates
produce anesthesia within about one minute after intravenous administration. Those in current medical use are the Schedule IV drug methohexital (Brevital®), and the Schedule III drugs thiamyl (Surital®) and thiopental (Pentothal®). Barbiturate abusers prefer the Schedule II short-acting and intermediate-acting barbiturates that include amobarbital (Amyta®), pentobarbital (Nembutal®), secobarbital (Seconal®), and Tuinal (an amobarbital/secobarbital combination product). Other short and intermediate-acting barbiturates are in Schedule III and include butalbital (Fiorina®), butabarbital (Butisol®), talbutal (Lotusate®), and aprobarbital (Alurate®). After oral administration, the onset of action is from 15 to 40 minutes, and the effects last up to six hours. These drugs are primarily used for insomnia and preoperative sedation. Veterinarians use pentobarbital for anesthesia and euthanasia.
1. Barbiturates. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
Retrieved October 18, 2010. http://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/barbiturates.html
2. History of Psychiatric Drugs - Opium. Adapted from Narcotics-Addiction Help Services. (retrieved April 24, 2009) http://www.addictionhelpservices.com/narcotic.asp
3. Kluger, Jeffrey, (2009). Medicine Chest for the Mind. Your Brain - A User's Guide. Time. p. 54, 55.
4. LÖVHEIM, Hugo. PSYCHOTROPIC AND ANALGESIC DRUG USE AMONG OLD PEOPLE
- WITH SPECIAL FOCUS ON PEOPLE LIVING IN INSTITUTIONAL GERIATRIC CARE. (2008). Sweden: Umeå Universitet, Print & Media.
Umeå Universitet, Print & Media. umu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:141547/FULLTEXT01
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