This Gives Me a Headache

Work Stress?
At Bayer, We’re More Experienced with Treating Headaches than You Ever Knew!

It’s true: Bayer didn’t invent Heroin (generic name: diamorphine), but Bayer chemist Felix Hoffman perfected its manufacture. The head of Bayer’s research department reputedly coined the name Heroin, based on the German heroisch (“heroic, strong”). Hoffman wasn’t trying to make an opiate: he was actually trying to make synthetic cocaine out of morphine. Yeah, really.

Heroin was sold over the counter in the late 1800s, and they marketed it as a “non-addictive morphine substitute” — but of course it was very addictive. In 1914, the U.S. started to require a prescription for opiates. Heroin used to be Bayer’s registered trademark, but it lost rights to the name in the west under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, following Germany’s defeat in World War I. The bottle shown in the photo is c1920.


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Randy Cassingham is best known as the creator of This is True, the oldest entertainment feature on the Internet: it has been running weekly by email subscription since early 1994. It is social commentary using weird news as its vehicle so it’s fun to read. Click here for a subscribe form — basic subscriptions are free.

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