Dangerous Ingredients Once Used in Overnight Cough Syrups

Overnight Cough Syrups

Dangerous Ingredients Once Used in Overnight Cough Syrups: It can be an occasional discomfort to a chest-shaking issue. But a thorough examination of the methods used by people to treat them through the years could leave you wondering what you’re doing.

Over a hundred years ago the production of cough syrups was an unregulated business and manufacturers were able to (and could) include almost anything to their cough syrups.

From morphine and chloroform to read on to learn more about these syrups, and also what manufacturers are using to treat coughs.

Ingredients found in traditional cough syrups

The cough syrups and tinctures have an interesting history. Here are a few ingredients that you might have seen in cough syrups 100 or more years long ago.


Opium is not a brand new drug. The ancient Egyptians were famous for trading with opium. The late 1800s saw Americans were using opium-laced cough and cold syrups.

Another term for opium-containing substances that are found in cough remedies can be “laudanum,” which parents gave babies to help reduce the pain of teething.

There were no strict laws on labeling for medications from the 1800s and the early 1900s. The year 1906 was the first time Congress adopted legislation known as the Pure Food and Drug Act, which obliged manufacturers to reveal the ingredients they use in their products.

Then, further regulations and laws on opium caused this to be an (thankfully) lesser-known and less popular alternative to cough syrups as well as other medicines.


Morphine is an opioid that comes of the poppy. It was utilized for pain relief, specifically in the aftermath of the Civil War, when veterans took morphine to ease pain from injuries.

Morphine could also be added to other medications like cough syrups , as an effective cough suppressant. Parents would give morphine-laced syrups in order to combat diarrhea in children, since constipation is among the more well-known side effects associated with opioids.


Heroin is a drug derived of morphine, which is extracted by consuming the poppy opium. Much like its predecessors made from poppy the manufacturers have included heroin in cough syrups in order to act as to treat coughs.

in 1895 German pharmaceutical company Bayer launched its latest cough syrup, which was offered under the label “Heroin.” While hard to believe the product was advertised as a safer alternative to morphine used in the treatment of diseases.


Chloroform is often used in thrillers to cause innocent victims to lose consciousness, this popular chemical was utilized for a long time in cough medicines as well as as an anesthetic. Old cough syrups , such as Kimball White Pine and Tar Cough Syrup comprised chloroform to treat cough.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of chloroform in drugs in 1976 after research showed that chloroform could increase cancer risk and may cause fatal cardiac and respiratory arrest.

One Night Cough Syrup

It is possibly the most dangerous of cough syrups. “One Night Cough Syrup” was marketed in the late 1800s and included cannabis, alcohol, chloroform, as well as Morphine.

The mixture was sold at a pharmacy and promised to end your cough within one night, so you could rest. With the mix of ingredients, there’s no reason to wonder why people began to lose consciousness very quickly.

What were the most hazardous ingredients?

It is not surprising that cough syrups that were laced with opioids (opium or morphine), and heroin) have been deemed to be among the most hazardous ones.

Narcotic medicines affect the central nervous system a variety of ways. But doctors aren’t aware precisely how this mechanism functions in the body or the brain.

The first cough syrups may be addictive and fatal in the event of taking too many. They contained medicines which are no longer legal to use or are only used in controlled settings.

What’s the main ingredients in the current cough syrups?

Cough syrups can still be purchased in the present, but with more researched ingredients and clearly the packaging is labeled.

Some cough medicines available over the counter could cause harm when not used as prescribed, which is why it’s crucial to be aware of how they function and the reason they’re recommended.

Dextromethorphan (DXM)

The cough suppressant DXM is sold in over-the-counter cough medicines. It may surprise you to discover the fact that DXM has an opioid component. It doesn’t, however, offer pain-relieving properties, only reduction of cough.

DXM in high doses can trigger hallucinogenic effects as per the National Institute on Drug Abuse Trusted Source. This indicates that DXM could be a source of dependence and abuse. Some combine it with alcohol or mix it in conjunction with marijuana to boost the effects of their high.


Promethazine-Codeine is an cough syrup only available through prescription only. Codeine can be described as an opioid, which helps to reduce cough, but it’s not as potent as heroin or morphine.

The mixture of cough syrup can lead to abuse, with some concocting it with alcohol or using it in conjunction with other drugs.


Benzonatate (Tessalon Perles) is a medication that is not narcotic and is that is only available on prescription to treat cough.

It is identical to local anesthetics. However doctors don’t know what it does to decrease coughing. What is the “Perles” part of the medication can be described as It’s like a pearl-colored, yellow candy. This is why the medication should be kept away from youngsters, who could be tempted to mistake them for candy.

Other ingredients that reduce cough

There are many other medications doctors prescribe for treating cough. A few other examples are:

  • camphor
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • honey
  • Menthol

These are the common ingredients used in the cough drop which can help lessen the symptoms of cough.

Guaifenesin is another ingredient commonly used in cough medicines, however is an expectorant (it aids in the removal of the phlegm) and not a suppressant for coughs.    Healthline News Get our daily COPD newsletter

When is the best time to visit the doctor

Coughing is your body’s natural reaction to eliminate harmful substances from the airways. There are however many occasions when coughing can be more harmful than useful. This is usually the scenario when you’ve had a cold for a long time and your coughing causes your chest hurt and interferes with the capacity to rest.

It’s recommended to visit your doctor regarding any cough that continues longer than 3 weeks. The symptoms that are common from a cough are:

  • It is a sign that you are coughing up blood, bile or stool
  • severe chest pain
  • high fever

These symptoms require urgent medical care. If not, it is recommended to consult an doctor anytime your cough begins to disrupt your everyday life or does not seem to be able to go away.


Cough syrups are fascinating origins. Today, they’re more tightly regulated, especially when it comes to prescription-strength cough medications.

It is essential to take your cough medication or other supplements as recommended. In the event of not doing so, it can result in adverse effects that are more severe than a cough.