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The medication advertised and used decades ago is not always the same that we use today. Here are some of our favorite vintage medications that you probably don’t want to use — and you probably don’t want to give them to your kids, either.
Cocaine Toothache Drops
These cocaine toothache drops, from around 1885, were intended for kids.
Heroin was initially used as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant and was also marketed as a cure for morphine addiction — before researchers realized that heroin rapidly metabolised into morphine.
Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup
Meant for teething children (or irritable children, or possibly awake children), Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup contained 65 milligrams of morphine per fluid ounce, which is a buttload. The American Medical Association filed it under the “Baby Killer” section in a 1911 publication, and production eventually stopped.
Complete with dosing information for infants as young as 3 months of age, this bottle of “poison” contained laudanum, which is a tincture of opium. It is still actually still available today, but by prescription only.
Brown’s Iron Bitters
Brown’s Iron Bitters were suggested for a variety of maladies, such as tummy aches and malaria. One of its ingredients was coca, which is where we get cocaine.
Dr. Hooker’s Cough Syrup
Designed to combat croup, colds, asthma, tuberculosis and whooping cough, Dr. Hooker’s Cough Syrup’s main active ingredient was alcohol.
Radithor claimed to contain at least 1 microcurie each of Ra-226 and Ra-228, and was prescribed to help cure illnesses or injury. The bad news for those who took it is that you don’t want to be exposed to radium, and you definitely don’t need to take it as a medicine on purpose. Radiation poisoning is a terrible way to die, and this particular product definitely killed people.
Paregoric is another type of tinctured opium, and was used to help treat diarrhea, coughs, teething and irritability. It was available over-the counter until it was classified as a Schedule III drug in 1970, but blends of drugs containing paregoric were still available OTC in the 1990s — and it is still available by prescription today.