August 23, 2004

Opium: It's not just for teething anymore.

In discussing our recent longhaul travels, I've been a little freaked out by how many people mention drugs. A guy in the row behind us: "Good job, whadja give her?" A flight attendant: "I always use Dimetapp." Another: "On the Stockholm flight, the parents'd just soak a cloth in vodka and let'em chew on it. Worked every time."

How'd our modern culture become so drug-dependent, I wondered? Am I doing something wrong by not stringing my kid along with OTC's until she's old enough for her first Ritalin prescription?

Then I found History House's wild account of widespread use of opium for children in 19th century England. [The page is actually titled "Caffeine and Opium-- for Babies," but, don't worry; no one's feeding kids caffeine. I mean, they're not crazy. Right?]

Some of the opium-based baby solutions cited in an 1843 report for British Parliament included:
"Mother's Helper
Infant's Quietness
Atkinson's Preservative
Dalby's Carminative [for those gas-inducing bad humours]
Soothing Syrup
Godfrey's Cordial"

Godfrey's Cordial got special mention for its distinctive, narrow-necked bottle, which kids quickly learned to identify. Said one chemist in the report, "I have seen little children in the shop put the neck of the bottle in their mouths and bite the cork, so fond are they of the preparation."

And parents were fond of it, too. So fond they'd dope their kids up so they could go to work, then dope'em up again at night, so the parents could sleep.

7 Comments

How'd our modern culture become so drug-dependent, I wondered? Am I doing something wrong by not stringing my kid along with OTC's until she's old enough for her first Ritalin prescription?

This struck a chord with me that I have not been able to come up with a good answer for... My first child is going through the general joy of teething and, perhaps unfortunately, Motrin works like a charm. So when she wakes up at 3am screaming in pain do I give her the solution I know works or do I try to comfort her as best I can without the OTC solution and know in my heart that I could take away her pain but choose not to because I am guessing that there may be some long-term downside? Even if there is this potential cost has not been discovered or quantified yet? What choice would you choose to make in the middle of the night?

My father told me that his parents treated his and his siblings' sore teething gums with paregoric--tincture of opium. It was doping the kids, of course, and was common, he said.
Some native americans were known to use willow bark (salicylic acid and salts) for chew toys for the same purpose.
So, it goes back a long way.
However, drugging a kid a bit because he or she is in pain is different from drugging a kid so as not to hear her cry during a plane ride.

Hey, is it OK that I come here sometimes? I'm a Mom, and I don't type...

Anyway, my pharmacist friend told me the only danger of Motrin (in the amounts that normal people give) is that it can cause stomach upset because it's ibuprofen. She prefers Motrin to Tylenol for kids. If it's not actual pain but just fussiness and irritability, have you tried any of the homeopathic pellets? Humphreys #3 (recommend by both my pediatrician and an old lady at my church, so it must be the universal cure) is sugar-based, while Hyland's teething tablets (the gel is completely ineffectual) are lactose-based. They were great for those something's-got-to-give-but-it's-not-screaming-pain moments of teething.

Pediatricians have long recommended frozen bagels for teething. I guess poppy-seed bagels are the most effective.

I remember grandma recommending rubbing a little whiskey on the gums on a teething child who was in pain. I'm sure the ingested alcohol did more work than the topical application.

Moxie, thanks for the info on Motrin, I feel much better. We had been using the Hyland's teething tablets for the first eight teeth, but now that the rest are slowly appearing she does not seem to be getting any benefit from them...thus the move to Motrin. I will give the Humphrey's a try. Thx.

I don't remember anything from my own teething - haven't asked my parents about it as yet - but, GOOD LORD, it's about the most traumatic thing to occur since childbirth! I mean, I had no idea how much intensity this kid had - we knew he was a firebrand but WOW! So, needless to say, we're opposed to OTC anythings - I know too much about the consequences later on down the line with all of 'em: aspirin, acetominephin & ibuprofen, so we're using Hyland's homeopathic teething gel & homeopathic teething liquid and Bioron's chamomila pellets and so far, they're producing about the same results as the other's would - more or less. I mean, hey, pain is pain, right?
But, as to the opium, I mean YEAH, for the grown ups, SURE, LEMME AT IT!!! (lol)

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