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Soldier's Disease: Military, Medicine, And Morphine

Among most people, morphine is often associated with extreme cases of pain and soothing pain relief, primarily because the drug is used as a pain killer. It has found particular use in hospitals as an element of the post-surgery treatment process, helping patients take their minds off the pain that comes after the procedure has been completed and the anesthetic wears off. Being one of the most potent pain relief drugs known to medical science, something like morphine is naturally not treated lightly and only used when the situation calls for it. Some experts that advocate non-narcotic pain killers for post-surgery patients admit that there are really no effective alternatives to morphine, due to the drug's sheer potency. However, for a few hundred to a few thousand addicts around the world, morphine is just another way to get a fix. Morphine is a powerful drug, one that has been used for pain relief for many decades.

Field medics during the First and Second World Wars were known to carry quantities of morphine on them, in the event that battlefield surgery was required. There are some records that indicate that the drug has been in use far longer, with anecdotal evidence suggesting it was used in conflicts as far back as the American Civil War, perhaps even earlier. In modern medicine, aside from post-surgical use, trauma and cancer patients have also been prescribed doses of morphine to dull the pain that they have to endure. It has also been used for palliative care situations, fighting the pain without fighting the cause of it, generally because the cause is still unknown to the doctor. In the past, morphine had also been used to “cure” people of opium (mildly ironic, since morphine is derived from opium) and alcohol abuse, though it was quickly learned that the drug was far more addictive than either of the targeted substances.

An estimated 400,000 soldiers in the American Civil War developed an addiction to the drug. In 1874, another highly addictive but yet effective pain relief drug, heroin, was derived from morphine. As of now, both drugs are still being used for much the same purposes, though doctors are understandably more likely to give a patient a shot of morphine than heroin, with some territories banning heroin use (even medical use) completely. However, that does not quite stop addicts from getting their hands on either one, though morphine is often only used as a “second choice” drug among heroin junkies. While it is possible for an addict to eventually overcome their physical addiction to either pain relief drug, the psychological impact is not so easily worked off. Former addicts can spend the rest of their lives living under the shadow of the drug, never fully adapting to performing tasks without the influence of either drug. Some have noted that the severity of the symptoms increases as the substance becomes more refined, with opium having the least visible impact and heroin doing the most visible damage. Across the board, the drugs can cause things such as paranoia, depression, and a wide range of other psychological disorders. Yet, despite the potent narcotic potential of the drug, morphine, the derivative heroin, and the unrefined opium are all still in use. As previously stated, very few people can argue that the three are easily among the popular pain relief and pain killing medications available and, until less narcotic alternatives are found, they are likely to remain as last-resort options for doctors.


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