Heroin Addiction: The History and Today
Heroin Addiction You Need to Know
The news headlines are filled with stories about the opioid epidemic and how it is destroying lives all over the country. Some people try to dismiss the problem as media hype, but it is impossible to ignore this issue when you look at the facts. While opioids are nothing new to the world, the common struggle so many people have with opioid-based medication has reached a degree that we have never seen.
What is the history behind these substances, and when did they start being used for medicinal purposes? How long has opioid addiction been a problem, and what are the real numbers behind the opioid epidemic? What is the relationship between opioids and heroin? What about the newest drug we have been hearing about, fentanyl? What is fentanyl’s relationship to heroin, and how is fentanyl different from the opioids that have been around for years? These are all questions that have been asked in recent months. We’re going to address them all here, today.
The Early Years of Heroin
The story of heroin starts in 3400 B.C. with the Sumerians of Mesopotamia and their cultivation of the poppy, which they referred to as the “joy plant.” Even from its earliest uses, the euphoria created by opium was immediately recognized and used for recreational purposes. By 1100 B.C., the plant had been introduced into Egyptian society and special tools were being made to properly cultivate and cut the plant.
In 440, traders from the Middle East brought opium to China, and the popularity of the poppy plant started to grow. It is not long before the Chinese government is forced to create laws regarding importing and the use of poppy plants. By 1500, Portuguese traders developed a method for smoking opium that became widely accepted around the world.
In 1803, a scientist named Friedrich Sertuerner dissolves the poppy plant in acid and then balances the reaction with ammonia to discover morphine. By this time, opium and morphine are only allowed to be traded for medicinal purposes throughout the world. But in 1812, an American trader named John Cushing establishes a successful opium and morphine smuggling operation centered in Canton, Ohio.
The work “heroin” was first coined in 1895 when Heinrich Dreser created the substance for the Bayer Pharmaceutical Company. He diluted morphine with acetyls to get a substance that had the same euphoria and pain management effects as morphine, but without the side effects. Three years later, Bayer released a commercial version of heroin.
Heroin in the Modern Era
In the very early years of the 1900s, heroin was thought to be a cure for morphine addiction. The St. James Society even went so far as to give free heroin to morphine addicts to help them quit. By 1903, the United States had a very pronounced heroin problem. On December 17, 1914, the United States Congress passed the Harrison Narcotics Act identifying heroin as a banned substance, and the battle to free America of heroin addiction was underway.
In 1970, blues singer Janis Joplin was found dead of what was later to be identified as a heroin overdose. She is the first public figure to die of heroin, and it sparked a huge debate about the growing heroin problem in the United States. Throughout the 1970s, cities such as New York City found themselves losing the battle against a growing heroin epidemic as people find ways to make a lot of money off of selling heroin.
The Numbers Associated With Heroin Addiction
In the United States, 60 percent of drug-related deaths involve opioids. As an ongoing problem, 91 people in the United States die each day of some form of opioid addiction. The growing availability in the United States, thanks to prescription medications, is making the problem grow out of control. Since 1999, the number of prescriptions written for opioid-based pain medications has quadrupled. As heroin in the form of opioid-based medication becomes more available, the instances of addiction also increase. The first case of documented heroin addiction in the United States was at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital in 1910. By 1915, the number of cases of heroin addiction that Bellevue was treating simultaneously grew to 425. In 2015, there were 12,989 recorded heroin deaths in the United States. As a sign of the times, deaths resulting from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl accounted for another 9,580 deaths in 2015.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is much more powerful than morphine or heroin. It is considered a schedule II controlled substance that is used for severe pain management, and as a low-level anesthesia. The most common way for fentanyl to be legally administered is either through injection or the use of a patch. When used illegally, fentanyl is injected, swallowed directly, or snorted.
Fentanyl has been associated with heroin addiction because many people mix fentanyl and heroin to get a stronger high. In some instances, illegal drug dealers will sometimes sell fentanyl as heroin to unsuspecting customers. When fentanyl is taken in the same dosage as heroin, it can be fatal. Fentanyl in and of itself is extremely addicting and can be fatal if not administered properly. The famed singer Prince died of a fentanyl overdose when he took the medication improperly. Fentanyl is said to be almost 100 times more powerful than morphine, which makes it significantly more powerful than heroin. Users who consistently mix fentanyl and heroin are taking their lives into their own hands, and many wind up losing the battle with heroin addiction. There is a new wave of synthetic opioids being introduced into the medical world, and on the streets. As with heroin-based opioids, the synthetic versions are finding their way to addicts through legal prescriptions from doctors. If you or someone you love has started taking fentanyl or any other powerful synthetic opioid, then you need to talk to an addiction specialist immediately to find a way to avoid this extremely dangerous substance.