Civil War Drugs and Addictions

Discussion in 'Civil War' started by Kate, Feb 4, 2016.

  1. Kate

    Kate Active Member

    It's hard to imagine the number of limbs that were amputated during the Civil War... they did it so often. Sometimes for what would be considered very insignificant wounds today... but they didn't know how to treat those (not to mention not using clean instruments) and those "small" wounds often resulted in something much bigger.

    I've read so many Gettysburg reports of *PILES* of arms and legs stacking up outside of field hospitals. Unimaginable carnage. :(

    Anyhow, the drugs used by war surgeons of the day were laudanum, opium, and morphine. (Some with the same base if I understand what they were exactly.) The side effects alone could (and often did) turn out to be devastating. Morphine was discovered in the very early 1830s, so there wasn't really enough time to have very much data of the effects. Then again, they needed *something* for the way they amputated and the excruciating pain it caused.

    If the soldiers survived the amputation(s), they then had to often deal with addiction... to the tune of nearly half a million soldiers from the Civil War. And since it was so new, there were more overdoses of morphine than we might know.

    Oh well, just something I was studying today and thought I'd share. :)

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