Contrary to its reputation as a uniquely effective analgesic used by British physicians to ease the pain of patients dying of cancer, heroin has emerged from clinical trials in the United States looking much like morphine, from which it is derived.
Clinical comparisons of the two agents were begun several years ago at Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, New York City, in response to public pressure for legalization of heroin as a pain medication (JAMA MEDICAL NEWS 1978;240:1567-1575). The American Medical Association continues to oppose such legalization.
In neither trial did heroin, also called diamorphine and diacetylmorphine, differ significantly from equianalgesic doses of morphine in its ability to relieve pain, alter mood, or cause side effects, according to pharmacologists Robert F. Kaiko, PhD, of Sloan-Kettering, and William T. Beaver, MD, of Georgetown.
The Sloan-Kettering investigators found heroin to be twice as