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Abu Ali al-Husain ibn Abdallah ibn Sina
( Avicenna )
(980 - 1037)

picture of Avicenna
The son of a tax collector, Avicenna was a Persian physician, philosopher, astronomer and mathematician. His most famous work was al-Qanun, an encyclopaedic survey of medical lore from antiquity to the present. Like most of his 270 works, al-Qanun was written in Arabic.

Avicenna commends cannabis, but recognises opium as "the most powerful of stupefacients". The medical and recreational use of opiates has been popular since the dawn of civilisation. Combined use of opium and another ancient respiratory depressant, ethyl alcohol, can dull pain and sometimes extinguish consciousness, not always reversibly. Both natural and synthetic opioids are widely used in contemporary surgical medicine. But their depression of respiratory function is a drawback.


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