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Heroin Is Invented:

By the 1890s, the various forms of opium and morphine use had led to very real addiction problems in the United States and abroad, and it became evident to the international medical community that something had to be done about it. "Finally recognizing the seriousness of the addiction problem," explains author Alfred W. McCoy, "medical science devoted considerable pharmacological research to finding a non-addicting pain killer."Aware of the tremendous market for such a drug, Bayer Pharmaceutical Company of Germany embarked on its own large-scale research program. One of Bayer's research chemists, Heinrich Dreser, recalled having read about a drug that had been invented twenty years before by C.R. Wright, a researcher in England. Wright, he recalled, had found that boiling morphine and a common industrial acid called acetic anhydride together over a stove for several hours produced a drug that was at least ten times more powerful than ordinary medical morphine, and that it reached the brain far more quickly as well. Wright had concluded, however, that the resulting drug, which he named "diacetylmorphine," possessed too many negative effects to be a practical painkiller, and he discontinued his experiments with it.

With the race heating up among major pharmaceutical companies to find a nonaddictive opiate drug, Dreser, who also invented aspirin for Bayer, decided to reevaluate Wright's conclusions about diacetylmorphine.

Upon tinkering with Wright's recipe, Dreser created a form of diacetylmorphine that upon injection, was immediately metabolized by the body into a morphine dose approximately twentyfive times stronger than a morphine injection of the same size.

Further, Dreser and his research team found that since less of this powerful diacetylmorphine was needed, fewer of opium's undesirable allergen-related side effects were caused. Based on these encouraging results, Dreser assumed that diacetylmorphine was also largely free of the addictive properties present in other opiate drugs, and thus, that diacetylmorphine would enable opiate drug addicts to break their addiction by simply switching to it for a brief time and then discontinuing its use whenever they chose to.

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