12 November 2009

When mad science met the tobacco industry

Still feeling rough so I have decided to rehash yet another post from the early days of the Poor Mouth. This one featured the hugely powerful opioid Etorphine and Big Tobacco.



I've been fascinated by Etorphine ever since it was mentioned duting a pharmacology lecture in the second year of my Physiologu and Biochemistry degree course. It is an opioid that is it is a synthetic relative of Morphine. However, it is many thousands of times more powerful. First synthesised in 1963 it is best known as “Elephant Juice” the drug that can drop a rampaging elephant in a second. just 4mg of the stuff will bring down an elephant, a mere 1mg does for a rhino - that is how powerful the drug is!

Correct target demographic

Quite astonishingly the Molecule of the Month (yes it does exist and has been featuring a different molecule each month since 1996) entry on Etorphine included the sentence “Scientists at BAT (British American Tobacco) once debated adding it to tobacco as it might create an addictive craving for it”

Etorphine in cigarettes? I seriously thought that this was a joke until I came across a 2003 article in the BMJ journal Tobacco Control Online (The link now requires registration) :

“... Dr Sydney J Green, then British American Tobacco’s (BAT’s) senior scientist for research and development. Green informed his readers about"way-out" developments at BAT including :

"A way-out development is that of compounds (such as etorphine) which are 10,000 times as effective as analgesics [such] as morphine and which are very addictive. It is theoretically possible (if politically unthinkable) to add analytically undetectable quantities of such materials to cigarettes to create brand allegiance. But this thought may suggest the possibility of such compounds occurring naturally."


Me having a quick fag break in 1987

Green’s report followed an earlier memo from Keith D Kilburn to CI Ayres, expressing concern about what BAT’s competitors might be doing in order to create brand allegiance. Kilburn proposed that a regular etorphine dose of as little as 0.2 microgram per day would be sufficient to create an addictive craving for the source. He also claimed that the "required delivery per cigarette…would be analytically difficult to measure."

Etorphine is extraordinarily dangerous stuff: fatal overdoses to vets (as in vetinarians) attempting to dart animals have been recorded. As a consequence vets who are registered to use etorphine must now have an assistant standing by with a dose of antagonist in hand.

I suppose one should not be surprised that Big Tobacco might have considered using etorphine as an additive, despite it being sheer and utter madness! It is just as well they never implemented the plan. On the other hand one would probably go down well after a coke Coke and a McOpium'n'cheeze burger.....

10 comments:

Nevin said...

As someone who is extremely anti cigarettes, the young man smoking 100's of cigarettes at the same time really made me nauseated. Even looking at his expression makes one wonder "what the hell is he doing"?

Stephanie, Mama Dramatist said...

That dude'll be one of my patients one day. On a ventilator. Waiting for a lung transplant or something...

And he'll expect some government to pay for all the care he'll need as a result of his choice.

Or was that the evil tobacco industry? YEAH!! THEY should pay!!!!

And Al Gore, too, since he was a tobacco farmer former big-time supporter of the tobacco industry.

Yeah... Al Gore should pay...

CherryPie said...

Fascinating!

Kay Dennison said...

I read things like this and realize how jaded I've become because it doesn't surprise me at all and I can't even muster an iota of rage.

Does that mean I've resigned myself to being screwed without getting kissed?

Sigh.

jams o donnell said...

It's pretty stupid isn't it Nevin. I gave up finally in 2001 after 22 years hooked

THey probably will Stephanie. I am glad I gave up

Fascinating and insane Cherie!

It sounds like weltschmerz Kaye

His Girl Friday said...

cigarette smoke must somehow correlate with global warming. I just know it...

at least they weren't considering small amounts of PCP... :/

jams o donnell said...

Haha HGF, I suppose they didn't want their addicts to turn into little versions of the Hulk after every fag break!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Aw, come on, Jams, what is a bit of etorphine to a veteran smoker? Icing on a cake...

jams o donnell said...

Haha Snoopy. Befoer I gave up (a choice between the fags and breathing and boy it was a hard decision!) the Etorphine was not needed. I was a 40 a day man!

Anonymous said...

"Molecule of the Month"? Not only does it indeed exist there are actually several sites by that name; alongside "molecule of the week" and "molecule of the day"; and I think Scientific American or maybe Chemistry World runs "Molecule of the Year"; but... gap in the market... not sure if there is a molecule of the hour yet. Plus, what's everybody got against ions? Might have to start up "Ion of the Week"; but what they actually do is they rather sloppily include ions as "molecules". DNA, proteins... they are all multi charged ions, not molecules.... Oh.. why is everybody falling asleep? happens in my lectures too....