By Dr Abol Hasan
It has become a taboo topic since long in the aftermath of Afghanistan invasion by erstwhile Soviet Union. The morals pushed over us by the liberal world order led to complete ban over legal trade of Morphine and other related narcotic products. I think as the world order is changing we shall also debate the pros and cons of the use of these traditional local sources of medicines from economical, social and medical standpoints.
Broadly speaking there are two groups of pain killers used in the medical practice.
Narcotic pain killers are the most potent and derived from the alkaloids contained within morphine (these alkaloids can also be synthesised/manufactured now) are used for the moderate to severe pain like in post-operative care, trauma , myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cancer pain.
Non-narcotic pain killers comprise nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory group of medicines (NSAIDS) like ponstan and Brufen. These pain killers are used for mild to moderate pain. Like joint and muscular pains. Their additional benefit is to bring down fever. Additional such drugs for mild to moderate pains are aspirin and paracetamol.
Hence most important analgesia (pain killing) comes from Narcotic alkaloids mostly derived (or copied) from morphine.
Charas is also another source of non-addictive group of medicines for similar purpose (derived from Cannabis Sativa) and for muscle relaxation. Both morphine and Charas are less addictive and safer than from nicotine from smoking and far more safer than alcohol for recreational purposes. These are all well known facts in the world of medicine but Alcohol is kosher because of the production and cultural use by the west while Bhang, Charas and Morphine have become a taboo for being Asiatic products.
There is a need to commission a study by the government or by some university to assess whether the ban on legal trade of morphine since seventies has led to decrease in the overall use of narcotics , illegal trade , related crimes and the use of imported far more dangerous chemicals in the youth. It is also required to conclude that how much state is spending on the imposition of such ban in the way of law enforcement, prosecution and prisons and how much worth tax payer rupee been.
Shaukat Khanum and Agha Khan are probably among the very few hospitals in Pakistan where vital drugs like morphine , diamorphine (Heroin) and hydroxymorphine are used. Whereas in the rest of the hospitals patients have to suffer pain and use imported synthetic narcotic inefficient drugs costing millions of taxpayer hard to come by dollars.
I also fear that the morphine injections and tablets used in these elite hospitals are also imported and not manufactured locally. There is a mega export dollar that we can earn by manufacturing these drugs and exporting legally.
Furthermore it is important to note here that these narcotic drugs are the most widely prescribed drugs in USA so much so that USA is experiencing an epidemic of narcotic dependence in the rural Midwest and is a big electoral issue right now.