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After a large percentage of the opium and morphine in the US National Stockpile of Strategic & Critical Materials had to be tapped in order to ease severe shortages of medicinal opiates -- the codeine-based antitussives in particular -- in late 1973, researchers were tasked with and quickly succeeded in finding a way to synthesis codeine and its derivatives and precursors from scratch from petroleum or coal tar using a process developed at the United States' National Institutes of Health.
On January 22, 1979, Dr. Kenner Rice of the LMC discovered the critical chemical reaction enabling large-scale production of totally synthetic morphine, codeine, and thebaine, the three basic raw materials in opium.