The process of introducing a new kind of medication into clinical practice is called drug development. Over the years, technology and a better understanding of the science behind drug development have improved the way drugs are tested before being brought into the market. But did you know that The same chemist developed heroin and Aspirin?
While working for Bayer in the late 1880s, German chemist Felix Hoffmann developed two of the most widely-used drugs, the Aspirin and Heroin drugs, within two weeks of each other.
What were Felix Hoffmann’s Greatest Inventions?
Felix Hoffmann was born in 1868 to an industrialist father in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Upon completing his education, he became a pharmacist. He was absolutely fascinated with his field of study and wanted to learn more. Hoffmann then took up chemistry and completed his degree in 1891. Two years later, Hoffmann earned his doctorate. He graduated with Latin honors.
Hoffmann began his work in Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co. in 1894 as recommended by his mentor, the Nobel Prize Laureate professor Adolf von Baeyer. In 1897, Hoffmann made an unlikely discovery. He created acetylsalicylic acid in a chemically pure and stable form by acetylating salicylic acid with acetic anhydride. The company worked to develop it further and, in 1899, introduced Aspirin. The drug was sold as a pain-relieving, fever-lowering, anti-inflammatory medicine.
At around the same period, Hoffmann, with the help of Professor Dreser, started developing a drug to help alleviate respiratory problems with the use of opium derivatives. Dreser and Hoffmann’s objective was to produce codeine. Bayer also made and sold it as medicine used to relieve heavy coughs and as anesthesia for birth-giving and those who experienced significant war injuries. (Source: Bayer)
Back then, heroin was sold as over-the-counter medication and was usually in a kit with a syringe. It was also known to treat and eliminate morphine addiction. Studies later showed that heroin had a negative side effect too. Physicians observed that people who used the drug developed strong dependencies on it. It then became a recreational drug by the early 1900s. Bayer ultimately halted its production and sales in the 1930s. (Source: Yale School of Medicine)
What is Heroin?
Today, heroin takes different appearances, depending on where it is purchased and its purity. The drug may come as a white powder typical in the country’s eastern states or look like black tar, which is often sold in the western states. Purer heroin is whiter.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug because its synthesis in the body is quick, giving the user the high he is looking for. The drug can be administered in different ways: snorting, injecting, or smoking. In many reports, many users start with snorting and smoking heroin, trying to avoid the stigma associated with those who inject it, often called junkies.
However, as the drug is synthesized in the body quickly, the users’ tolerance to it tends to increase, making them seek higher doses every time. Heroin is widely available in illegal markets. Studies showed that about 3.1 million Americans 12 and over have tried using the drug at least once in their life. (Source: National Drug Intelligence Center)