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Monday, 12 January 2015

Laudanum. Not just a medicine of the past! Gee's Linctus

Watch most movies, or read most books set in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the drug Laudanum will often feature. It appears to have been the conventional medical drug of choice for a variety of conditions and illnesses for a very long time. What many people will not realise is that it is still around, and still being prescribed in many countries, although, of course, with a different name. But it is still present in many ‘medicines’ that many of us were given as children, and can still give to our children today!
Anyone for Gee’s Linctus?

Laudanum is a drug based on opium. It is a tincture containing almost all of the opium alkaloids, including morphine and codeine. Its use dates back to the 16th Century, and Paracelsus. It is a highly potent narcotic and extremely addictive. Laudanum was used to treat a variety of ailments until the 20th Century. Today it is usually referred to as ‘tincture of opium’, and can still be prescribed in countries such as the USA and Britain.

Thus drug was used to treat coughs, sleeplessness, diarrhoea, and pain, including menstrual cramping, but as Wikipedia confirms, it was “widely prescribed for ailments from colds to meningitis to cardiac diseases”. It was routinely used for children, and widely used in epidemics of cholera, dysentery and yellow fever in the 19th Century, and also for diseases such as dropsy (Oedema), consumption (TB) and rheumatism.

The side effects and adverse reactions to Laudanum, tincture of opium are well known. They are an extension and refinement of those known in the 19th Century.

Difficulty having a bowel movement (stool)
hives or welts
blurred vision
blue lips and fingernails
chest pain or discomfort
cold sweats
constricted, pinpoint, or small pupils (black part of eye)
cool, clammy skin
coughing that sometimes produces a pink frothy sputum
difficult, fast, or noisy breathing, sometimes with wheezing
difficult or troubled breathing
difficulty sleeping
dizziness, faintness, lightheadedness when getting up from a lying or sitting position
drowsiness to profound coma
fast heartbeat
increased hunger
increased sweating
irregular, fast or slow, or shallow breathing
mood or other mental changes
no blood pressure or pulse
no muscle tone or movement
not breathing
pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
shortness of breath
slow or irregular heartbeat
slurred speech
stopping of heart
swelling in legs and ankles
unusual tiredness or weakness
Itching skin
redness of skin
skin rash

So the 20th Century has seen the use of Laudanum much proscribed, despite its well known DIEs (Disease Inducing Effects), it can still be prescribed within conventional medicine! I have already mentioned Gees Linctus.

Side effects given on a packet of Gee’s Linctus include nausea, sickness, constipation, drowsiness, confusion , loss of appetite, diarrhoea, stomach pain, shortage of breath, difficulty in urinating, skin itching and flushing, rash, low blood pressure. And “prolonged use may lead to tolerance (the medicine loses its effect) and dependence’.

Not much changes, then, including the willingness of the conventional medical establishment to continue giving us harmful and dangerous drugs, even for the consumptions of our children!