Tuesday, 14 January 2014

saying thank you for painkillers

We're not even half way through the first month yet, but so far, for me, 2014 has been a year of pain.

I got a nasty wee sinus infection on new year's eve, from which I'm still recovering, and I've also been spending some quality time with the dentist. I've been to the doctor, and things are getting better. The pain has reduced from constant, excruciating to frequent, nagging. I can now accept the possibility that it might stop. One day.

But it's made me think about people who suffer from pain all the time.

Henry VIII.
A little bit grumpy.
Did you know that Henry VIII had really bad abscesses in his jaw? And also a wound on his leg which wouldn't heal.  It must have been excruciating. It's hardly a surprise that he was 'ahem' a bit grumpy.

For me, pain closes down my world. I don't want to talk, I don't want to touch anyone, I don't want people around me. I snap at my children for running around and being noisy. It's pretty miserable being me, and it's pretty miserable being around me.

I cannot imagine how people manage when there's no end in sight.

Happily, within the pain there are windows of near normality, which allow me to live with other people. From whence do these windows come? The magical wonder of painkillers.

To the terribly clever people who invented aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, ibuprofen lysine (which is mine, by the way, if you were thinking of touching it), co-codamol, glorious diclofenac, and all the other painkillers I have not yet met.


Who were these people? I've Googled it, so you don't have to.

Aspirin was first made by the German, Felix Hoffman in 1897, although it's active ingredient, salicylic acid was already in use before that.  Danke Felix.

Paracetamol was first made by the American, Harmon Northrop Morse in 1877. But it was not thought safe for patients until 1949. It started being sold in the UK in 1956. Paracetamol is very dangerous even with low overdoses, but it's better for children, people with stomach complaints, and asthmatics than aspirin.  Thank you kindly Harmon.

Ibuprofen was discovered by a team of researchers at Boots the Chemist, UK, in 1960, and patented in 1961.  It has been available in the UK (by prescription only at first) since 1969.  You can now also get Ibuprofen Lysine, which is the same thing but more soluble, making it work faster (and also the thing that you'd use intravenously).  You can also get Ibuprofen gels for sore areas.  Did you know that in Japan Ibuprofen gel is used to treat spots?  Apparently it helps because of the anti-inflammatory properties.

Laudanum from Leeds :-D
Co-codamol is a mixture of paracetamol and codeine, and should never be taken if you're breastfeeding.  I've told you about Paracetamol above.  Codeine is an opiate, from the opium poppy (although most of it is now synthesised from morphine).  Opium has been used for ages as a painkiller, and just for fun.  It's the active ingredient in laudanum.  Codeine was first isolated by Pierre Robiquet, of France.  Merci Pierre.

Diclofenac was developed by Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis - a major pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland) in 1973, and first became available in the UK in 1979.

There are lots of other painkillers, more being invented by big pharma all the time - they suit narrower niches, and they may cost a lot more.  I bet nearly everyone has some painkillers in a cupboard somewhere.  What's your favourite one?

This post is inspired by Fat Mum Slim's post on 50 things to blog about.  The full list of posts inspired by the list can be found here.  Here are some other posts you might like: