"Physicians and psychiatrists—to say nothing of patients suffering from psychic disorders—have long searched for pharmacological ways to ease emotional suffering, even if that suffering could never be medicated away entirely. In the Victorian era, the drug of choice was laudanum, a high-octane mix of ethanol and opium that packed just the chemical wallop it sounds it would. The drug was used as a painkiller, an antidepressant, and an antihysteric, and it often worked quite well—provided you overlooked the fact that it was also wildly addictive and frequently lethal." .
Seed pod of the poppy from which an opaque milky sap is extracted. From this sap is derived opium, morphine, and with further processing, heroin.  
Medicines have been used in the treatment of mental illnesses for thousands of years. In the past, herbs along with forms of magic, might have been used to try to alleviate mental health problems. Opium is a drug that has been used by the Greeks for centuries (even since the days of Jesus) in the battle that many faced even then for mental balance.
Opium was used for both pain relief, and relief from depression
, and other mental health disorders throughout history, from pre-Christian times until recently. Its use continued throughout the 1700s and 1800s when it became a popular over-the-counter drug that was used not only to help calm a person's nerves, but in many children's elixirs as an aid with crying fits or tantrums. 
Opium fell out of mainstream use in the earlier part of the 20th century with the passing of laws that limited its use, and along with it, the over-the-counter access to cocaine. Some painkillers and other psychiatric medications
today are opiate-based or have a similar chemical structure. Some psychiatric medications
have a similar chemical structure to heroin, although its administration and use are different.
Cocaine was commonly used not only for its mood-elevating effects, but was also even added to Coca-Cola up until the early 1900s. It was part of the picker-upper in the popular soft drink. With stricter drug laws, the potent coco leaves were replaced with impotent leaves, taking the stimulant effect out of Coke around the year 1904.
, the well-known psychiatrist
, experimented with cocaine not only for himself, but also as an aid for his psychiatric patients. However, in the 1930s, a new era began in the use of drugs for mental health. In the '30s, amphetamines
, a stimulant, were discovered to calm down some children who were difficult to control. Their use with children really didn't gain momentum until the 1960s and '70s. In the 1980s, '90s, and until today, their use has proliferated.
, a popular stimulant for children—not a true amphetamine but similar in nature—came on the market in 1955, though its widespread use for children became more common only in the 1970s. This has led to today wherein Ritalin
, similar to the amphetamine Adderall (a true amphetamine), and other stimulants are used routinely in treating ADHD in children
and adults, and have become almost household names.
History of Barbiturates
came into use in the 1930s, also used to calm down or sedate adults. Barbiturates are used in the treatment of children and adults for seizures and with epilepsy. Barbiturates have a tremendous potential for abuse. Extreme caution must be used in taking barbiturates.
See: Barbiturates - Intoxication and Overdose
Barbiturates were first introduced for medical use in the early 1900s. More than 2,500 barbiturates have been synthesized, and at the height of their popularity, about 50 were marketed for human use. Today, about a dozen are in medical use. Barbiturates produce a wide spectrum of central nervous system depression, from mild sedation to coma, and have been used as sedatives, hypnotics, anesthetics, and anticonvulsants
. The primary differences among many of these products are how fast they produce an effect and how long those effects last. Barbiturates are classified as ultrashort, short, intermediate, and long-acting.
Long-acting barbiturates include phenobarbital (Luminal®) and mephobarbital (Mebaral®), both of which are in Schedule IV. Effects of these drugs are realized in about one hour, last for about 12 hours, and are used primarily for daytime sedation and the treatment of seizure disorders.
Valium, SSRIs, antidepressants, Quaaludes
The boundary between legal and illegal drugs is permeable and constantly shifting, as illustrated by the example of Quaalues, a hypnotic tranquilizer, which fell out of common use in the 1980s but was also heavily used as a street drug.
Valium, a tranquilizer in the 1970s and '80s, led to the use of SSRIs, antidepressants
—which are said to be safer than Valium—from the 1980s until today. The use of Quaaludes, a hypnotic tranquilizer, as a prescription drug and a street drug, fell out of common use in the 1980s because of the dangers of overdose associated with it. Quaaludes are like modern-day manufactured opium in its effects. Mellaril, on the other hand, is a similar minor (or major) tranquilizer that can also have a slightly hypnotic effect, and was developed from the first drug to be widely used in psychiatric hospitals
Actually, even today, there is a "grey area" between prescription drugs and street drugs. Many drugs that are sold legally by prescription for mood disorders are also sold on the street under the same or different names for both "kicks" as well as their mood- or performance-enhancing properties. Ritalin
is sold by prescription but also on the street with street names, and is 4th on the list of abused drugs (the three others being marijuana
, heroin, and cocaine
Additional information - Narcotics:
The term "narcotic,"
derived from the Greek word for stupor,
originally referred to a variety of substances that dulled the senses and relieved pain.
Today, the term is used in a number of ways. Some individuals define narcotics as those substances that bind at opiate receptors (cellular membrane proteins activated by substances like heroin or morphine) while others refer to any illicit substance as a narcotic.
In a legal context, narcotic refers to opium, opium derivatives, and their semi-synthetic substitutes. Cocaine and coca leaves
, which are stimulants) though also classified as "narcotics" in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), neither bind opiate receptors nor produce morphine-like effects. For the purposes of this discussion, the term narcotic refers to drugs that produce morphine-like effects.
Narcotics are used therapeutically to treat pain, suppress cough, alleviate diarrhea and induce anesthesia.
Narcotics are administered in a variety of ways. Some are taken orally, transdermally (skin patches), or injected. They are also available in suppositories. As drugs of abuse, they are often smoked, sniffed, or injected. Drug effects depend heavily on the dose, route of administration, and previous exposure to the drug.
Aside from their medical use, narcotics produce a general sense of well-being by reducing tension, anxiety
, and aggression. These effects are helpful in a therapeutic setting but contribute to their abuse.
Narcotic use is associated with a variety of unwanted effects including drowsiness, inability to concentrate, apathy, lessened physical activity, constriction of the pupils, dilation of the subcutaneous blood vessels causing flushing of the face and neck, constipation, nausea and vomiting, and most significantly, respiratory depression. As the dose is increased, the subjective, analgesic (pain relief), and toxic effect become more pronounced. Except in cases of acute intoxication, there is no loss of motor coordination or slurred speech as occurs with many depressants.
How opium is derived from the poppy:
The poppy Papaver somniferum is the source for non-synthetic narcotics. It was grown in the Mediterranean region as early as 5000 B.C., and has since been cultivated in a number of countries throughout the world. The milky fluid that seeps from incisions in the unripe seedpod of this poppy has, since ancient times, been scraped by hand and air-dried to produce what is known as opium.
Lithium in Treating Manic Depression and Bipolar Disorder
"In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, lithium
was the hot new thing. A chemical salt derived from an alkali metal, lithium did not provide the intoxication laudanum did, and was used mostly to ease the manic cycles suffered by patients with bipolar disorder
" (manic depression). A drug such as lithium, however, is described as being one that is something of a "blunt instrument," with sometimes unbearable side effects like "thirst, weight gain, lethargy, and memory impairment," not to mention emotional detachment, emotional emptiness, or a dulling of emotional feeling.
Technical Information on Barbiturates
The ultrashort-acting barbiturates
produce anesthesia within about one minute after intravenous administration. Those in current medical use are the Schedule IV drug methohexital (Brevital®), and the Schedule III drugs thiamyl (Surital®) and thiopental (Pentothal®).
Barbiturate abusers prefer the Schedule II short-acting and intermediate-acting barbiturates that include amobarbital (Amyta®), pentobarbital (Nembutal®), secobarbital (Seconal®), and Tuinal (an amobarbital/secobarbital combination product). Other short and intermediate-acting barbiturates are in Schedule III and include butalbital (Fiorina®), butabarbital (Butisol®), talbutal (Lotusate®), and aprobarbital (Alurate®). After oral administration, the onset of action is from 15 to 40 minutes, and the effects last up to six hours. These drugs are primarily used for insomnia and preoperative sedation. Veterinarians use pentobarbital for anesthesia and euthanasia.
1. Barbiturates. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
Retrieved October 18, 2010. https://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/barbiturates.html
2. Coomber, R., McElrath, K., Measham, F. Moore, K. (2013). Key Concepts in Drugs and Society (SAGE Key Concepts series) 1st Edition
. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
3. History of Psychiatric Drugs - Opium. Adapted from Narcotics-Addiction Help Services. (retrieved April 24, 2009) https://www.addictionhelpservices.com/narcotic.asp
4. Kluger, Jeffrey, (2009). Medicine Chest for the Mind. Your Brain - A User's Guide. Time. p. 54, 55.
5. Legal drug 'meow meow' probed. (2010, March 17). NHS (National Health Service) Choices
(Great Britain government health site).
6. LÖVHEIM, Hugo. PSYCHOTROPIC AND ANALGESIC DRUG USE AMONG OLD PEOPLE
- WITH SPECIAL FOCUS ON PEOPLE LIVING IN INSTITUTIONAL GERIATRIC CARE. (2008). Sweden: Umeå Universitet, Print & Media.
Umeå Universitet, Print & Media. umu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:141547/FULLTEXT01
7. The Opium Kings: Transforming Opium Poppies Into Heroin
. (1998). Frontline
Overcoming Bipolar Disorder Using Self Help Methods: 33 Practical Ideas for Recovery, Remission and Prevention
, by the Association for Natural Psychology, Gabrielle Woods, PhD (Editor), Laura Pipoly, PC, EdD (Foreword)
33 ideas in self help for bipolar disorder.
Overcoming ADHD Without Medication,
by the AYCNP
How parents and educators can help children to overcome ADHD and childhood depression, naturally through lifestyle changes.
Pages Related to Opium and History of Psychiatric Drugs
, Intoxication, Overdose, Signs, Prevention
History of Valium
–Its History, Use, Addictive Quality–Non-Pharmaceutical Methods to Prevent and Treat Anxiety
Typical Antipsychotic Drugs
Antidepressants Side Effects
Antidepressants and Bipolar Disorder
Drugs for ADHD
Issues in Psychiatry