Historical Medical Question: Laudanum Dosing

I have the great pleasure of hosting Ann Shorey today and Friday. First, I’d like to give her my warmest congratulations on the release of her novel Where Wildflowers Bloom that released Jan 1, 2012. What a great New Year’s Day gift. I hope you’ll check it out.

Ann Asks:

My wip is set in 1867. One of my characters is a doctor. Here are a couple of questions:

How much laudanum would be needed to give pain control to a four-year-old? How much for an adult male? How would it be administered–diluted in water, or swallowed straight?

Jordyn Says:

First thing to understand about laudanum is that it is an opiate based pain killer. Its contemporary counterparts would be drugs like Fentanyl and Morphine. Therefore, it could have the same type of adverse reactions that these drugs have. If a patient were to receive too much, their respiratory drive could slow down and/or stop. Also, these are not uncommon drugs to have an allergic reaction to.

I found a great resource for Ann. It’s an old medical text written by Dr. Chase, a physician during this time period. I was able to link to the exact information she needed. You can view it here:

http://www.archive.org/stream/drchasesrecipes01chas#page/132/mode/2up. The text gives a recipe on how to mix the drug and states: “From 10-30 drops for an adult, according to the strength of the patient or the severity of the pain.” So for children, I would imagine you would start with single drops.
I also wanted to point to this post written by historical author Ann Love (who I think has the best historical author name ever!) over at Anne’s Love Notes. She writes a more in-depth piece concerning Dr. Chase that will be of interest for historical authors. You can find it here: http://anneslovenotes.blogspot.com/2011/11/researching-19th-century-primary-source.html.
Any other thoughts for Ann?
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ANN SHOREY has been a full-time writer for over twenty years. Her writing has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Grandma’s Soul, and in the Adams Media Cup of Comfort series. She made her fiction debut with The Edge of Light, Book One in the At Home in Beldon Grove series. She’s tempted to thank Peet’s coffee and Dove chocolates when she writes the acknowledgments for her books.

 She may be contacted through her website, www.annshorey.com, which also contains her blog, http://annshorey.blogspot.com/ or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AnnShorey.

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