morfina, morphin, morphinium, morphium
Substance type: opium alkaloid
Sometime around 1803 and 1804, Friedrich
Wilhelm Adam Serturner (1783-1841), a
pharmacist's assistant, first isolated morphine as
the "sleep-inducing principle" in opium (cf.
Papaver somniferum, opium alkaloids). This
achievement was the most important "quantum
leap" in the history of pharmacology and represents the beginning of the true chemical investigation
of plants. Today, the Serturner Medal is still
awarded for exceptional work in pharmaceutics.
Morphine may also be present in Papaver
decaisnei Hochst., Papaver dubium 1. [syn. Papaver
modestum Jordan, Papaver obtusifolium Desf.],
and Papaver hybridum 1. (Slavik and Slavikova
1980). Whether morphine occurs in Argemone
mexicana and other Papaver species (Papaver
spp.) is doubtful, while the idea that hops (Humulus
lupulus) contains morphine is a figment of
someone's imagination. Tiny traces of the
substance have been found in hay and lettuce (cf.
Lactuca virosa) (Amann and Zenk 1996, 19).
Morphine has also been detected in the skin of Bufo marinus toads (cf. bufotenine) (Amann and
Zenk 1996, 18).
Since the time when morphine was first
detected in breast milk, cow's milk, and human
cerebrospinal fluid, it has been known that it is a
natural endogenous neurotransmitter in higher
vertebrates, including humans (Amann and Zenk
1996; Cardinale et al. 1987; Hazum et al. 1981).
Morphine does not bind well to the encephalin
receptors (to which the endorphins dock) but
docks at the specific morphine (m) receptors
(Hazum et al. 1981). It is most likely biosynthesized
in the body from dopamineA neurotransmitter associated with movement, attention, learning, and the brain’s pleasure and reward system. (Brossi 1991).
Another closely related substance, codeine, is also
endogenous in humans (Cardinale et al. 1987).
Morphine is the best and strongest natural
painkiller known. Its efficaciousness is surpassed
only by that of the synthetic morphine analogs
(heroin, fentanyl). Morphine is particularly well
suited for treating chronic pain, such as in cancer
therapy (Amann and Zenk 1996; Melzack 1991).
Endogenous morphine constitutes the body's own
Studies on rats have shown that among
animals who were suffering from arthritis,
morphine concentrations in the spinal cord
and urine were significantly elevated. Because
of this, it is assumed today that the organism
produces increased amounts of morphine in
certain disease states. Consequently, endogenous
morphine may serve to regulate pain
in the organism. Morphine exists in animal
and human tissue and is excreted in significant
amounts in the urine. (Amann and Zenk
About 30 mg orallyRoute of administration in which the subject swallows a substance. represents an effective
dosage. Habitual morphine users may use as much
as 1 g per day (Hirschfeld and Linsert 1930,255*):
It is known that opium eaters experience a
significant increase in sexual functions during
the initial period of opium consumption.
During opium inebriation, erotic images
appear and may even include extraordinary
sexual fantasies.... The effects of morphine
are similar, where an increase in sexual
excitability was observed following several
weeks of taking 0.03 to 0.06 g per day. (Max
Marcuse, 1923, Handworterbuch der Sexualwissenschaft
[Handbook of Sexual Sciences] )
When used for sedation, in anesthesia, and for
calming and antispasmodic purposes, pharmaceutical
preparations of morphine hydrochloride and
atropine sulfate or morphine hydrochloride and scopolamine
hydrobromide are used-the final
reminders of the recipes for the former soporific
During the Golden Twenties, the use of morphine
in Berlin society circles was depicted in
numerous pictures and illustrations (e.g., by Paul
Kamm) that appeared in magazines. These illustrations
played a great role in creating the stereotype
of the "Morphinist" (cf. Papaver somniferum),
who also became the object of literary treatments
(Bulgaka 1971; Mac From 1931). Even the life
story of the man who first discovered the substance,
Friedrich Wilhelm Sertiirner, became the
subject of a novel (Schumann-Ingolstadt n.d.).
Heroin, a derivative of morphine, has also inspired
a rich body of literature. One of the first of this
was the novel Heroin, by Rudolf Brunngraber
(1952*), which dealt with the role of heroin in
Egypt during the Golden Twenties.
Morphine was and still is a popular inebriant
in the music scene (particularly that of jazz and
rock). "Sister Morphine," a song by the Rolling
Stones (Sticky Fingers, Virgin Records, 1971), is
arguably the most famous hymn to the drug.
Morphine, a crossover band that mixes elements
of cool jazz and modern rock, took its name from
the alkaloid, and one of its albums is titled Cure forPain (Rykodisc, 1993).