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Article Summary

History Of Heroin

Whenever anyone mentions heroin, most people tend to think of the illegal, deadly, and highly addictive substance it is known as today. However, at some point in history, heroin was legal and considered to be one of the best remedies for a variety of afflictions.

With time, of course, this drug was to lose its status as a wonder substance and eventually acquired infamy as one of the worst drugs in the opiate family. Still, understanding heroin, its origins, past medical uses, and the reasons why it fell from popularity in the medical community will provide you with an essential context as to why heroin is what it is today.

If you have been abusing heroin for long either in binges or as a regular pattern, or if you are already dependent on it, it is helpful if you have a greater understanding of the substance by looking into its history.

Understanding Heroin

Today, heroin is an illegal and highly addictive substance. It is used by millions of people around the globe, most of whom are completely unable to get over the urge to continue using this drug on a daily basis. Among these are those who know that when they stop taking the drug they will experience the horrors of acute withdrawal.

Like morphine and opium, heroin is made from poppy resins. The milky and sap like opium will first be removed from the poppy flower's pod before getting refined to create morphine. After that, it is refined further into the various forms of heroin.

Today, heroin is often taken intravenously. This creates additional risks for users who face dangers from getting infected by such conditions as HIV and Hepatitis B and C, among others.

Prolonged use of the drug may also cut you off from the rest of the globe. As a direct result, you might find yourself shunned from society and you will eventually start feeling lonely, isolated, and depressed.

How Heroin Originated

That said, the drug was first manufactured in Germany by the Bayer Company, a pharmaceutical company, back in 1898. At the time, heroin was marketed as the perfect treatment for TB (tuberculosis). It was also touted for its abilities to treat morphine addiction.

In the 1850s, addiction to opium was a major pandemic within the United States. At the time, the solution for such addiction was to provide the addicts with a supposedly non-addictive and less potent substitute in the form of morphine. Eventually, addiction to morphine became an even bigger issue than the original opium addiction the drug was supposed to heal.

Eventually, the medical community tried to solve the morphine problem by creating a supposedly non-addictive substitute in the form of heroin. However, as time passed, this new drug proved to be more addictive than the substance it was thought to deal with.

The heroin problem, in its turn, created another supposedly non-addictive substitute - methadone. This substitute was also developed by German scientists in 1937 as they were looking for a surgical pain relief medication.

Later in 1947, it was exported to the United States under the trade name Dolophine. Eventually, this was renamed to methadone and the drug was widely used to treat heroin addiction. However, it eventually proved to be an even more addictive substance.

Eventually, and by the late 90s, the rates of mortality among heroin addicts was so high that it was 20 times greater than the larger proportion of the general population. This sparked interest and research into the drug.

Heroin's Origins

So, where does heroin originate? Although the heroin that most people abuse today might only have emerged in 1874, the drug is a derivative of more ancestral drugs - opium and morphine - both of which have a long global history.

Its oldest ancestor, opium, was discovered during the Neolithic period in the fields of wild poppy growing on the eastern Mediterranean mounts. After that, the drug's use and growing popularity spread to China, India, and Europe throughout the 18th century.

Opium as well as its derivatives - morphine and codeine - have been used by Europeans as cure-all drugs for centuries. However, the dangers and highly addictive nature of these drugs only became apparent during the 19th century, the same time that the widespread addiction to these opiate-derived drugs were evident.

In Confessions of an English Opium Eater, for instance, Thomas De Quincey wrote about his own addiction to laudanum. It is now believed that these writings on the dangers of opium spurred further medical research for an alternative for reducing and treating pain.

Heroin Is Discovered

C.R. Wright, an English researcher, was the first to synthesize heroin. In 1874, he created the drug by boiling acetic anhydride and morphine to create heroin - which he called diacetylmorphine. However, his creation showed such undesirable side effects as vomiting, sleepiness, and anxiety, which prompted him to discontinue the research.

In 1895, researchers at Bayer pharmaceutical company - including scientist Heinrich Dreser - continued C.R. Wright's studies. They eventually declared diacetylmorphine effective at treating a variety of respiratory conditions.

After that, the company started manufacturing the drug and marketing it as heroin. At this point, it was distributed widely and sold over the counter as a respiratory medication for treating colds, headaches, and other common medical conditions.

This widespread use meant that by 1924 heroin had already afflicted over 200,000 Americans who reported its adverse and addictive effects. As mental health and legal concerns began growing, the authorities took note and the US Congress effectively banned the manufacture, importation, and distribution of the drug.

Heroin's Timeline

Although heroin might have been banned by 1924, the ban did not completely wipe out the distribution and use of the drug in the United States. Consider the timeline below:

1924 - Congress legally bans the manufacture, sale, distribution, and importation of heroin.

1925 - The League of Nations, founded to protect international peace and prevent war in 1920, was the precursor to the modern United Nations Organization. In 1925, the LoNs began reducing and regulating the international manufacture of heroin. Additionally, it set forth restriction on the production and exportation of the substance through the Geneva Convention. This Convention comprised a set of international rules of war made up of different protocols and treaties.

1930s - Crime syndicates took over the manufacture, distribution, and sale of heroin.

1931 - The Limitations Convention effectively restricted the production of heroin to close to nothing above the amount required to fulfil scientific and medical research purposes. At the global scale, the total legal production of the drug sank to about 1000 kilos, a major progress from the 9000 being produced in 1926.

1939 to 1945 - During World War II, the purity of heroin decreased majorly as bolstered border security made trafficking close to impossible. As a direct result, there was a severe decrease in the supply of the drug in the United States. Most people who were already addicted to the drug had to force themselves to get clean - which caused the number of addicts to plummet from 200,000 to fewer than 20,000.

1940s - The Cold War caused a resurgence in the production, trafficking, sale, and use of heroin.

1950s and 1960s - The hippie and beatnik culture made the use of illegal heroin even more widespread than it was in previous years.

1971 - Robert Steel, an US Congressman led an investigation on the use of the drug by soldiers deployed to Vietnam. The findings of the investigation caused President Richard Nixon to take on heroin as the priority in his official drug policy agenda.

1980s and 1990s - Heroin became more pure, which increased the likelihood of users and addicts administering it through smoking and snorting.

1993 - South American cartels expanded their illegal drug trade from cocaine to heroin, and started supplying the drug in larger amounts.

2010 - Over 3,000 deaths were reported as resulting from a heroin overdose.

2013 - The number of deaths resulting from overdosing on heroin rose to over 8,000.

2014 - More than 10,000 people overdosed to death on heroin; in Pennsylvania alone, over 1,000 deaths from opioid (like heroin) overdoses were recorded while a roughly similar number occurred in Massachusetts. In the same year, Connecticut experienced an increase of 85% in deaths related to heroin use.

Heroin's Appearance

Heroin, in purest form, looks like a white powder. However, it is also found in black, brown, and rose gray colors. This coloring often comes from the additives used to dilute pure heroin, which might include caffeine, sugar, and other substances.

On the street, heroin is commonly cut with filler substances such as starch and laxatives. These additives, however, can be dangerous and can lead to the destruction of your vital organs as well as their infection.

When you buy heroin from the streets, therefore, you may never be able to actual strength of your dose. Therefore, you will be at a higher risk of suffering a heroin overdose.

Today, heroin is sniffed/snorted, smoked, or taken intravenously. The first time you use it, the drug will likely create an euphoric and happy feeling. As a direct result, it will cause you to feel extroverted and better able to communicate with others. You may also experience sensations of higher sexual performance, albeit for a short period of time.

As you can probably imagine, heroin is one of the most addictive substances. This means that withdrawal from it tends to be extremely and excruciatingly painful. This is because the drug may break down your immune system and leave you feeling sick, looking extremely bony and thin, and - eventually - dead.

International Statistics

According to recent statistics, more than 13.5 million people around the globe abuse opioids. Among these are 9.2 million who actively abuse heroin. Additionally, by 2007, close to 93% of the global supply of opium came from Afghanistan. This is an interesting piece of information especially considering the fact that opium is the main raw material used in the manufacture of heroin.

At the time, the total export value for heroin was at around $4 billion - of which close to ' was taken up by those who dealt in trafficking the drugs while only about a quarter reached the farmers who planted and harvested opium.

According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health released in 2007, it is estimated that there were close to 153,000 users of the drug in the United States. Other estimates, however, put these figures at the 900,000 mark.

Opiates - primarily heroin - were also involved in 4 out of every 5 drug-related deaths according to a report released by the European Monitoring Center on Drug and Drug Addiction.

Opiates, on the other hand, including heroin now account for 18 percent of the total admissions in hospital for drug and alcohol abuse treatment in the United States. From the day you will start using, therefore, you may never stop.

Within a week, you have gone from snorting the drug to taking it right up your bloodstream through intravenous use. In less than a month, you may have become addicted to heroin, which may cause you to start going right through your savings and earnings. You may also find yourself selling everything of value you used to own. Within about a year, the drug will have made you lose just about everything you own.

When You First Try Heroin

Heroin is so addictive than even a single dose can lead you down the road to constant abuse and addiction. To this end, it is surprising that some people experiment with the drug thinking that they will only try it once or a couple of times before stopping.

However, those who get on this road eventually find it close to impossible to turn back the wheels of time. The first time you shoot up, for instance, you may feel repelled and even vomit. You will, however, eventually try heroin again.

Once this happens, the drug will cling to your body. The way you will start wanting more of the rush from taking heroin will be akin to being deprived of oxygen. Eventually, the drug will take hold of you and trap you into an endless cycle of abuse.

However, the threat of addiction is by no means the worst consequence that arises from experimenting with this drug. For instance, you may overdose and drop into a coma lasting months or years. After you come out of the coma, you may be confined to a wheelchair and unable to read or write. At this point, the aspirations and dreams you once had will be gone. Worse still, overdosing on heroin may cause death.

The Heroin Look

At some point, heroin used to frighten people. Today, however, some people are trying to make such drug use fashionable and accepted. Over the past decade, the look of the heroin addict - complete with greasy hair, excessive thinness, sunken cheeks, dark circles or patches under the eyes, waxy complexion, and a blank expression - was promoted in fashion circles and popular magazines as chic.

In the same way that rock starts tried to popular LSD in the 60s, advertisers, photographers, and fashion designers are now trying to influence entire generations by portraying heroin abuse in music videos and magazines as desirable and fashionable.

Heroin Today

The image of listless young addicts collapsed in dark and filthy alleys has become obsolete. Today, young addicts could be as young as 12 years old. They could also play video games, enjoy their generation's music, and have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

They might also appear stylish and smart, and bear none of the typical traces and signs of heroin abuse - such as a listless look or track marks on their arms. This is because heroin is now available in a variety of forms, most of which are more affordable and easier to consume. This makes it even more tempting and attractive to a wider demographic than ever before.

From 1995 to 2002, for instances, the total number of American teens aged between 12 and 17 who had used heroin at one point or the other in their lives had already increased by 300%.

Therefore, people who might think twice about injecting themselves with the drug may also sniff or smoke the same drug quite readily and without much convincing. This is because the drug is falsely reassuring and might give you the idea that it is less risky to take it in these other ways.

However, the truth of the matter is that heroin - irrespective of the form it comes in and how you use it - is quite dangerous. It is now ranked among the most addictive of illicit substances and carries the risk of overdose and fatal death.

Who Profits From Heroin?

Political officials and governments reap major financial rewards from the distribution of heroin. At the same time, those who produce, distribute, and sell the drug depend on this trafficking industry for their trade and profits.

Additionally, some political rebels tend to fund their insurgencies and chaos from the money they make from drug trafficking. For instance, drug traffickers in Afghanistan provide weapons and economic support to the insurgencies while the insurgency protects them from governmental and international interference.

Cheese Heroin

Today, there is a highly addictive substance commonly referred to as cheese heroin. This is a blend of OTC (over the counter) cold medications - like Tylenol PM - and black tar heroin.

The drug is quite affordable and only costs a few dollars for a hit. As a direct result, children who are as young as 10 may get hooked to cheese heroin. It is for this reason that so many kids around this age or in their teens are often rushed to emergency rooms and hospitals on account of the withdrawal symptoms the drug elicits.

Combining any two drugs may slow down your vital bodily functions - such as heartbeat and breathing. Eventually, you might even die as a direct result. It is, therefore, not surprising that cheese heroin is now responsible for more than 40 deaths in North Texas only, for instance.

The Influence Of Dealers

From a variety of surveys conducted on teens to find out the main reasons they started using heroin and other drugs, the common theme among 55% of them was that they started as a result of peer pressure. Most of them, therefore, first took heroin because they wanted to look and be popular and cool. Not surprisingly, dealers are aware of this fact.

Dealers use this knowledge to approach teens as friends offering to help them out with something that will bring them up. In their approach, they often mention that heroin will help their prospective clients fit in with the rest of the crowd or even make them look cool.

However, before you fall into this trap, you should remember that drug dealers are often more motivated by making a profit than helping you. This is why they will say just about anything that will convince you to buy the drugs.

Some of them even go so far as convincing unsuspecting teens that the drug is like a warm blanket or that it will turn out into the best experiences with drugs ever. Of course, when they say this, they will not care whether the drugs will eventually end up destroying your life. As long as they get their money, they do not have any qualms about how you end up. In fact, some former dealers admit that they often view buyers as pawns in their sick game of chess.

As far as possible, therefore, you may want to stay away from heroin and anyone else who tries to sell the drug to you. If you are able to, you should also report anyone who tries peddling the drug to the relevant authorities.

Recent Studies On Heroin

Luckily, a new vaccine has been discovered to fight heroin addiction even before it begins. It is part of a new drug designed to counter the current opioid epidemic that is plaguing the United States and causing misery and even leading to the death of friends and loved ones.

This vaccine works by preventing the positive feelings you tend to get after you take heroin. In this way, it will prevent you from wanting to take heroin in the first place or at all.

Although the vaccine effective addresses the physical responses of your body to heroin, it does not prevent or solve the psychological and social reasons that cause most people to start using drugs.

On the other hand, fentanyl has been contributing to the increase in heroin overdose. This substance is purely synthetic and works in the same way as heroin. The only difference is that it isn't an opioid since it wasn't created from poppy plants.

Appearing as a fine grain powder, fentanyl tends to be so cheap to produce. Since this is the case, it is not surprising that some people have taken to cutting the drug to create heroin.

However, the drug is so highly potent that some heroin users may buy what they assume to be heroin, taking their regular dose, and eventually succumb to an accidental overdose.

Other dealers in a variety of states, including Ohio, also cut heroin using other substances such as Carfentanil. Also known as elephant tranquilizers, this drug is quite strong.

If you inject the heroin batch, the additives in it - including but not limited to Carfentanil - may clog your blood vessels. In the process, they may also cause kidney and liver disease and eventually cause immediate death from an overdose.

To better understand heroin and the history of the drug, you may want to read the following research findings. Since heroin has a particularly highly addictive nature and due to the high levels of opioid abuse within the United States, scientists are now trying to find out what makes these opiates - and heroin - so addictive. These findings may help find solutions to treating the addiction as well as preventing this type of addiction from taking place.

Efforts Against Heroin Use And Addiction

At the moment, there are many programs and efforts by the United States in place to reduce heroin abuse and treat those who are already addicted to and dependent on this drug. Some of the national recovery programs targeted against heroin include:

a) 12-step Programs

These support groups allow participants to work through 12 steps and build on the sense of community around them to fight their addiction to heroin. Narcotics Anonymous, for instance, provides ongoing and supplementary support during and after you get treated for heroin addiction.

b) Collegiate Recovery Communities

Collegiate recovery communities also form support groups - by they are more geared to college students looking for support as they try to overcome their dependence on this drug.

c) Improved Naloxone Accessibility

Today, naloxone is mainly used to prevent death arising from heroin overdose. Naloxone works by stopping or at least delaying the adverse effects of heroin on the body and mind.

d) Inpatient Recovery Programs

Several hospital and rehab based inpatient recovery programs now provide intensive, round the clock medical care services to individuals battling heroin addiction and going through the detox, treatment, and recovery process.

e) Methadone Clinics

Methadone clinics sell methadone, which is used as a replacement for heroin. It mimics heroin, thereby helping to ease withdrawal from it. It also helps patients maintain their abstinence.

f) Outpatient Recovery Programs

If you are still struggling with your heroin addiction, you might be required to sign up for one of these programs. By so doing, you will be able to follow a treatment plan while continuing to live at home and go to work.

g) Residential Treatment Programs

These programs provide a supportive and focused recovery environment. They provide temporary housing, therapy, and attentive care, as well as medically-assisted and supervised detox.

h) Sober Living Communities

These communities and homes will provide you with a safe, sober, and lucid living environment to support you recovery goals in the long term - way after rehabilitation.

Concluding Thoughts On The History Of Heroin

A popular illicit substance of choice within American culture, heroin is not a new drug. Additionally, its negative effects are not exactly unique to the modern day. Rather, this opium derivative is similar to other derivatives in the sense that it cases physical and mental dependence after you abuse it.

In the 1800s, opium was the most popular drug of choice. All around the Wild West, there were tons of opium dens. The influx of opium into the United States during this period may have been contributed by the fact that it was brought into the country by Chinese immigrants looking to work on American railroads.

According to accurate American history, there are famous names of that period - including Kit Carson and Wild Bill Hickock - who frequented a variety of opium dens. What was surprising at the time was that they visited these dens more often than they were seen at saloons.

Nonetheless, alcoholism was still a big problem at the time. In fact, during this period, alcoholic was among the major sources of death and violence. Eventually, people started promoting opium as a miracle cure for alcoholism.

It is from opium that a derivative was created in the form of morphine. It was first developed as a pain reliever at around 1810. At the time, the substance was considered to be a wonder drug because it tended to work effectively at eliminating the severe pain commonly associated with traumatic injuries and medical operations.

The drug also left users in the number and euphoric dream state. It was because of this state of the brain and intense euphoria that the drug was eventually named after Morpheus - the Ancient Greek god of dreams.

By the 1850s, the drug was readily available in the country and eventually become more popular among medics and doctors. The benefits arising from this usage of the drug - particularly for treating severe pain - was now considered to be nothing sort of a miracle.

Unfortunately and on the flipside, the addictive properties of morphine were not noticed until way after the American Civil War. At the time, the people who were exposed to the drug as they were getting treated sky-rocketed. This causes many of them to become addicted to the drug.

Last but not least, the solution to this problem came in the form of a new drug. Invented in Germany, heroin eventually took it first Germanic trademarked name. After getting imported to the United States, it was marketed as a safe and non-addictive morphine substitute. However, as you've already seen, this was not to be the case.

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