A Recipe for Disaster? Opioids

When a recipe refers to laudanum, it really means opium. Laudanum is a tincture of opium prepared by dissolving extracts of the opium poppy. It was, and remains, a very strong narcotic and up to the 40 drops suggested in a recipe for a sleep aid, it might do a little more than give you some sweet dreams. Many of the recipes also just refer to opium, whether it be a solution or a tincture. Opium and its derivatives have been used in medicine since before 500 AD. As a potent form of pain relief, it was a widespread and commonly used narcotic. In comparison to many other chemicals used by medical practitioners like mercury and arsenic, its use as a sedative is perhaps not quite as toxic.

During the eighteenth century, as illustrated by these recipes, it was often used for sedation. Now highly illegal, it’s interesting how use of opium has developed from feeding it to babies to quieten their cries to being a restricted drug alongside all of its derivatives like heroin.

C696, Page 8 – Anodyne and Sleeping Draught.                   No 22

Take a subcarbonate of potash, a scruple; lemon juice,  ½ an oz spearmint water an ounce and a ½  laudanum or Battley’s solution of Opium 20, 30 or 40 drops syrup of tolu a dr * Mix
This is a very useful draught to procure sleep and ease pain, in the majority of diseases I have already said, in noticing separately the different articles in the Domestic materia medica that Batley’s Solution of Opium or the O’Black Drop are far preferable to laudanum or any of the common preparations of opium for procuring sleep and alleviating pain since they accomplish these objects without occasioning subsequent headache fever – illness or any other unpleasant symptom. This is a                                                                                                                                                               eases
point requiring particular attention where we wish to procure sleep or ease pain in diskesses attended with inflammatory or febrile symptoms but it is not so much attended to by professional men as it ought to be
C696 Page 16, Diuretic Mixture                     86
Infusion of Foxgloves 4 oz Tincture of foxgloves ½ dr actate of Potash 1 dr Tincture of Opium 10 Drops –  & Take a table spoonful 1 every 2 or 3 Hours time a Day –
C696, Page 33, Syrup of Opium
Of a superior kind may be made by mixing 20 drops of Battley’s Sedative liquor of Opium with the invitation which keeps up the cough in recent cold after the inflammatory symptoms as abated and for easing pain, and procuring sleep in the diseases of children and delicate women. It is also of great service in some forms of chronic asthma and habitual cough.
To allay the invitation of coughing in adults the dose is 1 or 2 tea Spoonfuls taken occasionally; and to procure sleep or ease pain  1 or 2 table spoonfuls, or more 1/3 or ¼ of these quantities is sufficient for children.