January 18, 2013

The History of Opium in Diabetes


opiumThis is a historical piece of medical mention. It was fist noted in July 1814 that opium had a remarkable benefit to diabetes.

Before the discovery of insulin, in 1920, large mounts of opium showed an improvement in diabetes Some of these improvements were seen in strength, hydration, and spirit of the patient. In no way is this article meant to promote the use of opium. It is simply to share a piece of medical history.

The story began in a Northhampton Infirmary in January 1814.  At the time the patient was admitted, he was excreting a high volume of  urine, frail and thin, experiencing progressive weakness, excessive thirst, and pain in the area of the kidneys.

Initially with the intention of mitigating the pain, the doctor prescribed a grain of opium, to be taken once daily at bedtime. This regimen continued until March 1, 1814. At which time the dose had gradually increased in frequency and amount to 24 grains of opium, consumed in 5 or 6 different doses in a 24 hour period.

Aside from the mitigation of the kidney pain, his overall strength, appetite, and hydration improved. In fact, his 24 hour urine output decreased from 25 pints to 7 pints. This incidentally improved his insatiable thirst. At the end of the hospital stay, he was reduced back to 1 grain of opium at bedtime and the subsequent urine output doubled overnight.

The diet and restrictions of the patient while at Northhampton Infirmary were minimal. He consumed a regular diet of meat and milk, with unlimited amounts of veretables.

The hospital notes read that “large doses of opium have a striking effect on diabetes”. Understandably, this finding was over 100 year before the discovery of insulin. Since that time, there have been numerous other uses for opium antagonists in the medical treatment of diabetes-related conditions.

Many studies have been done on naltrexone and the effects it has on autoimmune diseases. Naltrexone is an opiod antagonist drug, which blocks the opiates from attaching to these receptor sites. Another study published in Diabetes Care  shows how it improves glucose control in T1D women with eating disorders. One study currently underway examines how naltrexone may help improve hypoglycemia unawareness in T1D.  

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