Laudanum is a drug that, in the universe of All the Wrong Questions, induces a numbness in the ingester.
Reddish-brown and extremely bitter, laudanum contains almost all of the opium alkaloids, including morphine and codeine. Laudanum was historically used to treat a variety of conditions, but its principal use was as a pain medication and cough suppressant. Until the early 20th century, laudanum was sold without a prescription and was a constituent of many patent medicines. Today, laudanum is recognized as addictive and is strictly regulated and controlled as such throughout most of the world. The United States Uniform Controlled Substances Act, for one example, lists it on Schedule II.
Laudanum is known as a "whole opium" preparation since it historically contained all the opium alkaloids. Today, however, the drug is often processed to remove all or most of the noscapine (also called narcotine) present as this is a strong emetic and does not add appreciably to the analgesic or antipropulsive properties of opium; the resulting solution is called Denarcotized Tincture of Opium or Deodorized Tincture of Opium (DTO).
Laudanum remains available by prescription in the United States and theoretically in the United Kingdom, although today the drug's therapeutic indications are generally confined to controlling diarrhea, alleviating pain, and easing withdrawal symptoms in infants born to mothers addicted to heroin or other opioids. Recent enforcement action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against manufacturers of paregoric and opium tincture suggests that opium tincture's availability in the U.S. may be in jeopardy.
Side effects of laudanum are generally the same as with morphine, and include euphoria, dysphoria, pruritus, sedation, constipation, reduced tidal volume, respiratory depression, as well as psychological dependence, physical dependence, miosis, and xerostomia. Overdose can result in severe respiratory depression or collapse and death. The ethanol component can also induce adverse effects at higher doses; the side effects are the same as with alcohol.
Long-term use of laudanum in nonterminal diseases is discouraged due to the possibility of drug tolerance and addiction. Long-term use can also lead to abnormal liver function tests; specifically, prolonged morphine use can increase ALT and AST blood serum levels.
While it is unknown how much the Snicket version of laudanum mirrors its realistic counterpart, it is described more as a sleeping drug than pain medication. It is described as having a sweet and strong smell, "like a dangerous flower."
S. Theodora Markson describes it as a sleeping draught which can make the ingester incoherent and nearly unconscious- or, as Snicket later put it, "sleepy and strange." She appears to be correct, as it produces that effect on Ignatius and Doretta Knight as well as the students of Wade Academy.
The effects of laudanum can be fought off with stimulants such as caffeine. The Inhumane Society and Association of Associates also fought off the effects by chewing what the associates first thought was strange bark, but was later revealed to be shed skin of the Bombinating Beast- meaning that the beast's skin can be used as a suppressant.
Its first use in the series was in an attempt to poison Lemony Snicket in order to kidnap him, by V.F.D. Chaperones Gifford and Ghede. This was prevented by S. Theodora Markson, who stole his cup and poured it onto the street.
It was later used by Dr. Flammarion to drug the Knight couple into complacency, and then by the Inhumane Society to drug the students at Wade Academy; they may have gone a bit overboard, as they laced all food with the drug and mopped the floors with it. Boxes of the drug were stored in black boxes with silver lettering, in a cupboard. Hangfire also used the drug to keep Polly Partial from discovering a theft.
- It is unknown how similar the "Snicketverse" version of Laudanum is to its realistic counterpart, as the Snicket one seems to be more of a sleep drug than a pain suppressor, diarrhea help, or addictive substance.
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- Also labeled Tr. Opii, Tinctura Opii Deodorati, Tincture of Deodorized Opium, Opii tinctura. Tincture of Opium, U.S.P, "yields, from each 100 cc, not less than 0.95 gm and not more than 1.05 gm of anhydrous morphine". Source: The Pharmacopoeia of the United States of America. 10th Decennial revision (U.S.P. X). Philadelphia, USA. J. B. Lippincott Company, 1925 (Official from January 1, 1926), page 400.
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