Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Methadone, Origins

    Methadone was first synthesized in Germany during World War Two. There are a few apocryphal stories about methadone. One version claims that methadone was first synthesized at the behest of Luftwaffe Commander Hermann Goering, who also happened to be a junkie, out of fear that morphine supplies might be cut off if Turkish opium imports were cut off. This is doubtful, for one Goering could easily have stockpiled a personal supply of narcotics for himself, and Germany did produce the synthetic narcotic  Pethidine [1] in bulk.
     The second oft-repeated story about methadone involves its trade name, Dolophine. The notion that Dolophine was named in for Adolf Hitler has become part of what I call "junkie lore," urban legends of dubious veracity passed around by members of the drug culture (I have even been told that methadone was made by Hitler himself, making it an evil drug for sure). Methadone was originally given the unimaginative name Hochst-10820, Hochst being the name of the factory in which it was first synthesized. During the war methadone was never synthesized in any quantity, and its pharmacological properties mostly unexplored.
    Following WW2, methadone became part of the plundering of German scientific and technical research. The patent for methadone was purchased by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, reportedly for one dollar (Hogshire, 1999). It wasn't until 1947 when clinical trials began, and the new drug christened "Dolophine." As for the word "dolophine," I have read conflicting reports. It appears to be a contraction of the words for "pain" and "end," either from the French ("douleur" and "fin") or Latin ("dolor" and "finis").

[1] The generic name of Pethidine is meperidine, known is the US as Demerol. Most of the world knows meperidine by the name Pethidine

Further Reading:

Hogshire, Jim. Pills-a-Go-Go: A Fiendish Investigation into Pill Marketing, Art, History & Consumption. 1999 [Link]

Methadone – The History of Juice by Black Poppy Magazine (UK)

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