DARK Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Morphine
As the major psychoactive agent in opium and direct precursor for heroin, morphine is a historically critical molecule in chemical neuroscience. A structurally complex phenanthrene alkaloid produced by Papaver somniferum, morphine has fascinated chemists seeking to disentangle pharmacologically beneficial analgesic effects from addiction, tolerance, and dependence liabilities. In this review, we will detail the history of morphine, from the first extraction and isolation by Sertürner in 1804 to the illicit use of morphine and proliferation of opioid use and abuse disorders currently ravaging the United States. Morphine is a molecule of great cultural relevance, as the agent that single-handedly transformed our understanding of pharmacognosy, receptor dynamics, and substance abuse and dependence disorders.