It’s amazing how far modern society has with the use of addictive alkaloid molecules. Molecules such as nicotine, morphine, and caffeine all were causes of expansion, trade, and even war. It has always been a harsh reality in the world that if someone wanted something bad enough, war was the only answer. Morphine is the active ingredient in opium and is an effective painkiller and is still used medically. Opium has been a cause of many conflicts throughout the Middle East and Asia. A prime example is the opium wars. In China opium was used medically until the Europeans in the seventeenth century introduced it to the Chinese mixed in with tobacco. This led to a prohibition of opium. In only one hundred years the import of opium rose from two hundred chests in 1729 to around forty-thousand in 1830! That’s outrageous! We see this happen again on a smaller scale from the prohibition of alcohol in the early twentieth century that caused organized crime and violence. The only differences there are between the opium wars and prohibition are the fact that the belligerents in the opium wars were major countries instead of smaller systemized crime gangs. In this structure, known as the morphine rule, the molecule must have a phenyl or aromatic ring, a quaternary carbon atom, and a CH2-CH2 group attached to a tertiary Nitrogen atom. It is believed that the required structure of the morphine rule is responsible for the narcotic effects of many chemical compounds. (Le Couteur & Burreson 246-268)
Nicotine is also an addictive compound that amazes me. In small doses it acts as a stimulant but in larger doses it acts as a depressant. Its potency increases a thousand fold when it is absorbed through the skin orally. Nicotine is most popularly found in tobacco. Tobacco is an awesome agricultural plant that has a negative tag on it. Many commonly look down upon the use tobacco because of modern cigarettes and the negative effects that is associated with the use of them. Historically tobacco was used the same way it is used today except without all the harsh chemicals and all the tar that causes oral cancers. It is believed that the use of the plant was first discovered in Latin America and was brought back to Europe for the monarchs and nobles to smoke. This led to expansion and trade with the Americas. Unfortunately it also caused the destruction of civilizations. In the American colonies cotton was the main crop used for agriculture, but there was one colony that thrived off the farming of tobacco plants! If it were not for tobacco Jamestown would have fallen quickly. The geography of the town caused the soil to be very swamp like and uninhabitable for the conventional cotton plants. Tobacco was the only source of economic benefit. Jamestown popularized the farming of tobacco plants and now it is easy for us, especially living in the south, to find tobacco farmers everywhere!
Caffeine is the last and the most common of the three. We find ourselves consuming and thriving off the ingestion of caffeine in modern day society. Every time we consume soda, coffee, and even chocolate we consume a toxin! But don’t worry; it’s nearly impossible to consume that much! Don’t you think it’s kind of awkward that our body is highly addicted to something toxic?! The history behind the toxins of caffeine is a natural self defense. It is a pesticide formed by the trees to keep bugs from chomping on its’ fruits. But let’s get back to the book. caffeine in coffee is argued to be one of the many causes of the enlightenment. From what we have read we knew that many scholars would come to coffee shops to chat about science. The understanding behind this is that before this, the beverages of choice were either beer(alcohol), but the introduction of coffee and tea cause the people to switch from a depressant to a stimulant. This allowed people to stay awake and have increased memory. If this is true than we can see how coffee could have been a cause.
I’m posting two blog posts on the same because I’m a little late. Nonetheless nitro-compounds is a subject I could go on for hours on end! Without the formulation and use of these substances, the world would truly be centuries behind! Chemically a nitro-compound is a compound that contains a nitro group. Simply put, any compound that has NO2 attached to it. Nitro-compounds revolutionized the ways war was conducted. If it were not for these nitro compounds mankind would still be stuck fighting hand-to-hand. The power contained in these amazing compounds allow for the advancements of bombs, missiles, bullets, and even fireworks! Nitro-compounds were first believed to be used in China, India, Arabia, and other parts of Asia for fireworks. The stories of the weaponization of nitro-compounds come from all around the globe! From the mysterious “Greek Fire,” and ancient Chinese flame throwers to the more modern-esc Korean “Fire Arrows.” Essentially it started with projecting the actual flames to harnessing its power to propel a projectile that we see now in modern combat and warfare. This ultimately led to the introduction of firearms. The idea of a smaller, safer and more accurate weapon that were also reusable caused for production instead of a traditional arm such as a sword or bow and arrow. The first depicted firearm was in a painting in China in the 12Th century AD. By the 14th century Europe and Arab countries obtained rifles for military use. By the 15th century almost all the nations in that area had obtained firearms, but Japan was late to the game. The introduction of rifle and firearms into Japan ultimately ended the age of the samurai. Advancements of firearms rapidly increased during the 18hundreds to the 19hundreds. We see repeating shots and rifling for better accuracy, velocity and range. This quickly spiked in the 20th century with the invention of automatic rifles. This is where war got bloody. World War II, The Korean war, and the Vietnam Conflict all show the brutality and destruction brought upon the world by these nitro-compounds.