From Birth to Epidemic: A Brief History of Heroin and How it Became an Epidemic

By | October 29, 2018

In 2016, an estimated 15,500 people died from heroin-related drug overdoses in the United States. If you’ve ever come across an opium poppy, you know how beautiful of a flower it is.

How can something so beautiful be so deadly?

The opium epidemic is no new phenomenon to the world. The Sumerians cultivated the opium poppy and called it the “flower of joy.”

Despite efforts by the US government to reduce its presence, heroin use continues to rise.

How did heroin become the epidemic it is today? Here you will find a brief history of heroin and how it became such a deadly force.

A Field of Wild Poppies

Humans are naturally curious, and drug use is quite common across all cultures.

The opium poppy is believed to have first been discovered in fields along the eastern Mediterranean mountains. From there, it was cultivated by the Sumerians and Mesopotamians.

Opium was used as a pain reliever across Europe and Asia for centuries. It was also known for its euphoric, dream-like effects.

As people began to abuse it, governments tried desperately to ban it. This lead to the First and Second Opium Wars in China.

A History of Heroin: From Morphine to Today

Opium dens were popular on the western frontier. It was brought to the US by Chinese immigrant railroad workers.

Morphine was the first opium derivative, created in 1805 to help curb opium addiction. The product was well-received.

Morphine creates ten times the pleasurable effects of opium.

In 1874, Charles Romney Alder White synthesized heroin from morphine. In 1898, Felix Hoffman used the substance for Bayer.

Heroin was originally used to treat morphine addictions in addition to relieving pain and suppressing coughs. Because of its addictive nature, heroin was banned by the Heroin Act of 1924.

Heroin quickly became a hot black market item. It was smuggled from China to the US beginning in the 1930s. It was brought through Chinatown in NYC.

Treatment of the Drug Today

Today, the heroin epidemic continues to spread across the United States. Drug overdoses now account for more deaths than automobile accidents.

Heroin and other intravenous drugs have led to an increase in the spread of diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis.

This problem continues to grip the nation.

The DEA has cracked down on illegal drug smuggling. Doctors and scientists continue to research effective rehabilitation methods.

Today, we have a better understanding of drug abuse and how to treat it. This treatment has been effective in mitigating some of the risks involved in heroin use.

It is better to know the risks and turn away from heroin.

Looking Forward to a Heroin-Free World

The road to recovery is a long and winding road. This is true on a personal level and a global level.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a heroin addiction, you should seek help as soon as possible.

Don’t stay blind to the issue, and understand that the history of heroin is long and addictive. If you would like to find out more about how drug use impacts us, visit the Drugs and Alcohol section of our blog.

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