Over-the-counter Morphine and Its Opiate Friends
Opium-based morphine, named after the Greek god of dreams, was once a medicine chest staple. It continues to have a place in modern medicine -- in fact, more than 230 tons of the stuff is used for pain management on a yearly basis [source: Easton]. And even though there's been nearly 200 years of medical advancement since morphine was introduced, the opiate remains as problematic as it does beneficial. It's highly addictive and has side effects that include constipation, itching and severe nausea.
Morphine has a strong connection to battlefield medicine, used heavily to treat wound pain during the Civil and World Wars. In addition to its use in military medicine, morphine was once also commonly used as an at-home remedy. In 1900 you could buy over-the-counter opiates -- such as laudanum (an addictive mix of alcohol and opium) -- as well as cocaine, heroin, morphine and opium-based patent medicines to treat your colds, insomnia, menstrual cramps and whatever else might have ailed you. Morphine (and cocaine) injection kits were sold in the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog. Even a teething baby could be soothed to sleep if you had opium-based elixirs on hand, such as the morphine-rich Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup.