ABriefHistoryOfDrugs: Separated at birth: Aspirin and Heroin


File this one under Surprising Fact of the Day.

Did you know that Aspirin and Heroin were both first synthesized by the same guy?

Yep, the man who brought us the cheapest, most common headache cure in the world is also the guy responsible for the world’s Number One Class A drug. Fascinating, and true too. This ranks right up there with the bloke who invented dynamite then going on to institute a Peace Prize. It’s like finding out there’s a synagogue named after Hitler, or something.

Aspirin, like many modern medicines, is just a re-invention of traditional wise woman magic. The main ingredient is a derivative of salicylic acid which is found in willow bark, myrtle leaves and wild Meadowsweet – all traditional cures for aches and pains.

The problem with salicylic acid is that it’s a tad too aggressive, and many people suffered from sore mouths, throats and stomachs in it’s pure form.

Enter Felix Hoffmann. In 1897, he created acetylsalicylic acid in the lab, which contained the pain-relieving powers, but none of the side-effects. The company he worked for – Bayer, in Germany – was more interested in his other discovery however. They intended to use his Diacetylmorphine in cough medicine. We know it better by it’s brand name.


Yes folks, Heroin was originally created to cure that tickly throat. It was the Tixylix of the age.

The mind. It boggles, doesn’t it?

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