Legend: Pharmacist questions prescription for "one pound of mofeen."
[The Daily Oklahoman, December 2005]
In another memorable case, Duncan said, a doctor received a phone call from a pharmacist trying to confirm a suspicious prescription for morphine.
The doctor said, "Well, I'm a pediatrician. I don't prescribe morphine. How did you know it was a fake?" Duncan said.
And the pharmacist said, "It's for M-O-F-E-E-N, and it says: One kilo. Use as needed."
[Collected on the Internet, March 1995]
I was in LA the past weekend with two of my brothers. One told me about his friend, a doctor, who lost a prescription pad. The doctor got a call a day later from a pharmacy. Man came in with a prescription for "mofine", quantity of "1 pound".
Origins: Complicating their work in caring for the ill and injured, physicians need to be concerned about patients who turn to them not for medical intervention but for access to hard-to-obtain drugs. Among the legions of legitimate sufferers, there are always a few who feign physical maladies in an attempt to secure supplies of painkillers, or who alter legitimate prescriptions written for more innocuous drugs
into scripts for their pharmaceuticals of choice, or who steal blank prescription pads when their doctors' backs are turned. (It is for these reasons that physicians make it a practice to safeguard their prescription pads, both by carrying the ones they're using on their persons and keeping all others in locked cabinets or drawers.)
This legend speaks to the dark reality of the ongoing struggle between physicians and those out to scam drugs from them by poking fun at a fictional thrill seeker. While the hapless soul of this legend succeeds in making off with a sheet from his doctor's prescription pad, his lack of medical knowledge does him in — his attempt to purchase a large supply of morphine from a pharmacy is thwarted, both by his spelling and his ignorance of how controlled substances are vended. (Morphine isn't distributed to patients by the pound, after all.)
Although our oldest print sighting dates only to 1995, the legend has been part of the canon of medical lore for far longer than that. One of our readers reports having heard it in 1987 while a first year medical student. Another encountered it while a fellow at Grady in the mid 1980s.
While usually presented as an anecdote about someone
else's experiences, it is sometimes told in the first person, with the one relating the story presenting it as an event he or she actually
participated in, either as the doctor or the pharmacist. The narcotic which the drug-seeking miscreant presents a forged script for is variously dubbed "Mofeen," "Mopheen," or "Mofine," with the amount requested varying from telling to telling, "1 pound" and "3 pounds" being the most commonly mentioned figures. As to why the story seemingly never features any other drug, it might be because when heroin is scarce addicts sometimes turn to morphine, making that prescription narcotic one of the most sought after by those with serious drug dependencies.
There is one additional item of note about this legend: its undercurrent of racism. While tellings generally lack overt mention of the drug seeker's color, the use of language brands that individual as African-American via the 'r' dropped from the 'mor-' syllable of the narcotic he's after. His forged script never requests "Morfeen," "Morpheen," or "Morfine," misspellings that would leave entirely up in the air the question of race; instead, the elided 'r' points the dialectal finger directly at a black person.