The History of Heroin – Understanding the Opioid Crisis



  July 7, 2018    

Today, when you hear about heroin, it is typically in the context of the opioid epidemic that we find ourselves in the midst of today. However, this epidemic didn’t come to be overnight. Because we are always hearing about the latest overdoses and deaths in the news and otherwise, we rarely think about the original reason that heroin came to America, how it was first made, what its initial use was, and how its use has grown in many ways.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an illegal opioid, and it’s derived from the opium poppy plant. It has been classified here in the United States as a schedule 1 substance, which means that it has a high likelihood of being abused and that it serves no medical purpose.

The substance itself looks like a brown or white powder, or a black and sticky substance. Once a user consumes heroin, it is converted back into morphine in your body, which in turn binds to the opioid receptors located throughout your brain and body. This includes your central nervous system, smooth muscle, gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular system, and your immune system. These receptors then control your pain perception, blood pressure, reward feelings, arousal, and breathing.

Immediately after being used, heroin induces a high or rush-like feeling of intense pleasure that lasts for around half an hour. Once it is over, the users then feel a warm, heavy, and flushed skin sensation, which is accompanied by a 3-4-hour period of alternating sleepiness and alertness.

Other negative effects include brain deterioration, diseases resulting from shared needles, clogging of blood vessels, collapsed veins, constipation, confusion, difficulty urinating, dry mouth, kidney disease, lowered blood pressure and libido, and much, much more. And of course, worst of all, the substance is highly addictive – bringing users back for the negative health effects that come with the high again and again. Learn more about the science of heroin addiction.

The Roots of Heroin

So, if heroin is so bad, then what is it doing over here? Why did we ever bring it to the United States and allow it to run wild and grow out of control like it has?

It all started when heroin was invented in 1874, but its predecessors – opium and morphine – have been around since the ancient Mesopotamians and Sumerians. From there, its use spread to the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Egyptians, The Greeks brought these substances to India and Persia, where it then thrived and grew in large quantities.

During the 1700s, opium was widely used as a pain reliever from everything from menstruation and childbirth to cancer. It was traded and used for all sorts of medical purposes, but by the 1800s, the addictive nature ad danger of the drug became clear.

Heroin was developed in 1874, and became popular in 1898, when Felix Hofman re-synthesized it for use in cough medicine, relief from labor pains, and for use in surgery.

Heroin’s Illegal History

Heroin became illegal with the introduction of the Heroin Act of 1924, when its addictive and dangerous qualities had become clear. Then, in the 1930s, it began to be smuggled into the U.S. from China. Black markets opened, expanded, and thrived.

Come 1948, gangsters from Corsica connected with the Mafia in the U.S. and drug distributors and began to overtake these heroin black markets. Turkish opium became refund in Marseille and was sold in New York City. The result was a rise in American Users, and between 1965 and 1970, the country was home to an estimated 750,000 heroin addicts.

The Opioid Epidemic

You know what happened next. The problem grew into the opioid epidemic that we are dealing with today.

Now, this epidemic causes over 27,000 deaths every year. Deaths resulting from heroin increased by 469% from 1999-2014. It doesn’t take much to know that this problem has grown out of control. It is difficult to think of heroin as a substance that was initially intended for medical use, and has strayed so far from its initial purposes.

The solution, however, begins with individuals stepping up to take the first step towards healing. With thehelp of SOBA it is possible for those suffering from opioid addiction to get their lives back on track. If you or a loved one is ready to combat the grip of heroin and get your life back on track, contact us at SOBA College Recovery today. We are here to help you fully recover your Heroin addiction once and for all.

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