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Heroin: The Wonder Drug of the 1800’s

14 October 2013

Today we know all too well the terrible effects on someone when they are addicted to some type of drug. We especially know the effects of a horrible street drug: Heroin.


Heroin: The wonder Drug

Wonder Drug….

What if I told you that this drug was once called a “wonder drug,” by its inventor, and doctors? Well it was.  In 1897, Heinrich Dreser of the German pharmaceutical company, Bayer, who had just that same year invented aspirin, came up with what we know as today, the drug Heroin. Dreser thought that aspirin was counterproductive to a body trying to recover from an ailment as it had an “enfeebling,” effect on the heart.  It is Funny how this very effect on the heart is the reason why many cardiologists recommend an Aspirin a day to their heart patients today.


After Dreser conducted tests on himself and fellow workers, he found that his latest discovery Heroin, a derivative of Morphine, had a “heroic” effect, hence the drug’s name. With very little further testing, the drug was released to the public in 1898 under the brand name Heroin. The ads for the drug claimed that it was so much better on colds, and safer than codeine; it also claimed that the drug was better on pain than Morphine. In essence it was marketed as the era’s “wonder drug.”



Heinrich Dreser

Within a year, Heroin was being used in all types of meds like, pills, lozenges, and more. It became very popular in the United States. A Boston medical journal in 1900 stated: “It possesses many advantages over morphine. It’s not hypnotic, and there’s no danger of acquiring a habit.” How very wrong they were!  In another 6 years clinical studies on the drug were published and all of them agreed, the drug was wonderful.

Popular Cough Syrup which contained Morphine

Popular Cough Syrup which contained Morphine

It did not take too long for the dodo-birds at Bayer to realize how very wrong they were. Reports came in of consumers becoming “immune” to the new drug, and how many needed their doses to be increased. Even after these reports Bayer did not stop making the drug until 1913. By then, the hospitals were loaded with mass amounts of drug addicts.



I don’t know about you, but this really makes me leery about taking any new drug. I don’t think we can know a drug’s long term effects until many are on it for a long time. But then again, how else can we learn? How else will medical science advance if not for the first few guinea pigs? Dreser had good intentions and sadly many suffered before we understood the detrimental effects of a drug he thought was a “wonder drug.”



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2 Comments to “Heroin: The Wonder Drug of the 1800’s”

  1. Charles Romley Adler Wright invented heroin in 1874 btw. Bayer just manufactured and sold it. Just a friendly FYI. Cheers.

  2. Thank you Mic!

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