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History of Drug Abuse

What is Drug Abuse?

Drug abuse happens when individuals consume drugs in excessive amounts using unconventional methods. Often times, drug abuse, also known as substance abuse is done without professional supervision. Repeated drug abuse in excessive quantities leads to overdosing with fatal side effects.

Drug Use around the World

Almost every country in the world battles with drug addiction and abuse. Thousands of people die and get admitted to hospitals for severe overdose side effects every year. The specific drugs used in specific countries vary according to regional availability. The three most famous drugs in the world include marijuana, heroin and cocaine. Though the sale and use of drugs are prohibited in most countries, people continue to buy and consume them. Most of the countries have strict laws and punishment rules for both drug possession and drug use, but the figures suggest that these laws are not sufficient enough to contain the spread of substance abuse.

So what makes drugs so popular? Why the world cannot shake off the threat of substance abuse in an effective way? To understand that, we need to understand the history of drug abuse, which interestingly, goes back a long way in time.

History of Drug Abuse

History of drug abuse goes way back to thousands of years ago. It seems that human beings have, since the beginning of civilization found to put good use of recreational drugs. In the beginning these drugs in its crudest forms like leaves and roots were used for religious and medical reasons.

The Indigenous people in South America have long known the properties of Coca leaves from which cocaine is made today. They had made it into a habit of chewing the leaves thousands of years ago. Ancient Egyptians who were far more advance than any of their counterparts around the world frequently drank wine. All around the world indigenous communities are known to have used hallucinogenic drugs in their ceremonies. Records of opium and cannabis date back to thousands of years. So substance use is not a phenomenon that can be attributed only to modern civilization.

Drug Abuse in Modern Time

Although people have been using drugs in its various forms for thousands of years, it was only in the past century that it was able to spread widely. With the advent of chemistry, scientists were able to extract and isolate the drugs from its natural form like leaves. Sale of drugs grew into a lucrative business and this led to the creation of new drugs.

The new drugs created included substances like morphine, cocaine and laudanum. In the early 19th century, the governments were not aware of the ill effects of continuous drug use. So, these drugs were unregulated and were freely available. They were also used for medical purposes. During the civil war morphine, with its properties to alleviate pain, was freely distributed to soldiers, some of whom became addicted to it later. At the end of the century it was estimated that there were 2, 50,000 addicts in US alone.

The ill effects of substance abuse began showing its ugly face in the early 20th century. Concerned authorities scrambled to get the situation under control and passed bills and laws. The first important law regarding drug use was the Pure Food and Drug Act in the year 1906. It was introduced to accurately label all drugs used especially opiates. In 1914, a bill named the Harrisons Narcotic Act was introduced to contain the spread of drugs like heroin and cocaine.

But regardless of the laws and bills, illegal trade flourished and so was substance abuse. The 1930s saw efforts being made to educate kids which were abandoned quickly. The coming decades saw an increase in the use of marijuana and other recreational drugs. The social upheaval of the youth during this time added to the fact that drugs were being entered into countries illegally. Powerful drug cartels were formed by organizations which made it difficult for the authorities to crack down on illegal trade.

In 1995, authorities in the US put warning labels on alcohol. But, by the early part of 21st century both recreational and prescription drug addiction and abuse were on the rise. At least 15,000 people die of substance overdose in the US alone. Many bills and laws passed on over the years have not been able to effectively control the rise in the numbers of drug abusers.

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