Historically, apomorphine has been tried for a variety of uses including psychiatric treatment of homosexuality in the early 20th century. Currently, apomorphine is used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease and (under the name Uprima) of erectile dysfunction. It was also successfully used in the treatment of heroin addiction, a purpose for which it was championed by the author William S. Burroughs. It is a potent emetic (i.e. it induces vomiting) and should not be administered without an antiemetic such as domperidone. The emetic properties of apomorphine are exploited in veterinary medicine to induce therapeutic emesis in canines that have recently ingested toxic or foreign substances.
For treatment of erectile dysfunction, it is believed that dopamine receptors in the hypothalamic region of the brain are the main target, as although dopamine receptors in the penis do facilitate erection, they do so far more weakly than those in the brain.
Apomorphine is colourless as a liquid but stains green. Therefore care must be taken to avoid splashes. Apormophine does not remain stable for more than 24 hours in a plastic container, so syringes are discarded if not used within 24 hours.
Therapeutic use in Parkinson's disease is effective because of the drug's strong dopaminergic action, with a rapid effect (within 3-20 minutes of injection) but a brief duration. While apomorphine can be used in combination with l-dopa, the intention is usually to wean patients off of this, as by this stage they will probably be experiencing a great deal of dopa-induced dyskinesias and "off" periods. Following a successful apomorphine challenge, training of patient and caregiver, and careful dose titration, there is no reason why an apomorphine pump can not be an effective monotherapy.