Paregoric: One of the Best Medicines You Won’t Find Anymore
For children of a certain age, a dose of paregoric was practically a miracle cure for the stomach flu, but for the most part, it’s extinct.
Once upon a time, there was a medication doctors would prescribe for bad cases of diarrhea or an irritable bowel. It was generally dispensed from pharmacies in very small glass bottles significantly smaller than a cough medicine bottle.
It was called paregoric.
I could remember a handful of times in my childhood — no more than six times — that I needed a dose for that reason. My mom would take a teaspoon and stir it into a glass of Coca-Cola. It added what some have described as a flavor of mild black licorice to the Coca-Cola. I could drink down that glass of Coca-Cola with that added teaspoon of medicine in it and in all but one case, the stomach issue stopped immediately. (In one case, it took a second dose a few hours later.)
Parents also used paregoric in very small amounts to rub onto the gums of children who were teething.
Before 1970, it could be purchased in the United States without a prescription, so it used to be much more common than it was in the 1970s and 1980s.
These days, you almost certainly won’t get it.
There was just little problem with paregoric: its primary ingredient. Yes, that primary ingredient that made it seem like such a miracle drug was powdered opium.
Opium addiction, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, is a rapidly-growing problem in the country. So doctors nowadays have mostly long-ago abandoned prescribing drugs like paregoric because of the fear it will lead to dependency.
It’s certainly a valid concern, but if you ever find yourself suffering an instance of the stomach flu, if you’re of a certain age, you’ll probably find yourself longing for that spoon of paregoric mixed into a ice-cold glass of Coca-Cola and the relief it would surely bring.