In January of 1907, a young woman took a dose of morphine and a painful day later she was dead. Rose Milton, 25, was an "inmate" (indicating she was probably working as a prostitute) of Maud Stewart's Place, 2 1/2 West California Avenue, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The man with her, unnamed, said she took the morphine at midnight on a Thursday and did not know the nature of the mixture until her suffering called attention to the situation. Although doctors came to attend the woman, just before noon the next day she died.
Related to opium and herion, morphine use has been suggested as early as ancient Rome. Morphine is a highly addictive substance made originally from the same poppy flower as opium and was scientifically identified in the early 1800's. It was a boon to individuals suffering from physical pain but its addictive elements produced an unforeseen side affect if dependence in some people. In 1849 a 'soothing syrup' for infants was marketed containing morphone called "Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup."
A look at the self-help health care products may be a silent indicator that the "soldier's disease" of the Civil War era, a morphone addiction problem of U.S. soldiers wounded, while unverified may have been a reality. One of the side affects of morphone addiction was constipation and the great number of ads for pills, elixers, and treatments of that condition do indicate this was a recognized problem of the era. Kellogg of cereal fame was attempting to address this problem, among others, when he developed his healthy breakfast foods. Although the condition is often linked to the nature of processed foods at the time, there may be another explanation since morphine was commonly available through drugstores and catalogs.
The symptoms of withdrawl can also help interpret the actions of some individuals, such as Miss Milton. Many women of the day were stereotyped as having the vapors. Most assume this was caused by too tight corset lacing, and some can be attributed to that, but also a probable cause would be addiction to a morphine or a similar opium based drug.
The symptoms often mimiced the flu or similar illness: Sweating, Chills, Tearing eyes, Runny nose, Restlessness, Muscle aches, Backache, Dilated pupils, Irritability, Trouble sleeping, High blood pressure, Rapid heart rate, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Stomach cramps.
Miss Milton was said to be having an attack of "the blues" before she took that last fatal dose of morphine. After a dose a person often became short of breath, their breathing slowed, and they began vomiting. Once taken death could easily come from any one of the symptoms that included rapid heart beat, low blood pressure, confusion, dizziness hampering normal body and cognitive functions. Fatal errors of judgement could mean death in many occupations and long term use was detrimental to the strength of the heart.
The pure food act of 1905 helped remove many toxic additives to milk and canned goods, but the purity or quality of medicines took a little longer to correct. Too late for many, many people, like Miss Rose Milton who died in a sporting house in Oklahoma City in 1907 at age 25.