It is always interesting to observe healthcare’s evolution. Our knowledge has grown in so many ways. Often our knowledge takes us to new vistas of valuable techniques, technologies, and treatments. Occasionally, it takes us back to some very old practices that have merit. Moreover, every once in a while we come across something that simultaneously elicits a bit of both shock and laughter. Such was the case when I learned recently about the use of opium with babies in England during the mid-1800s.
Prior to 1868, England had no restrictions on opium use. The pressures of childcare coupled with opium availability created perfect conditions for new products that quickly captured the attention of harried parents. You know where I am going with this. Let’s face it; there are times when a sleeping baby is far better than the alternative. Here are some of the names of these popular products:
- Atkinson’s Infants’ Preservative.
- Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup.
- Street’s Infant Quietness.
All I can say is: oh dear! The good news is that we have advanced in our understanding of these drugs and thereby revised how they should be used. Yes, tragically, childhood deaths due to the opiates were common then.
However, the experience teaches us an important lesson about healthcare. Just because a substance happens to be unregulated (or regulated) does not guarantee that it is always safe to use in every situation. As with all aspects of our healthcare, cautious wisdom is always the safest course to take.