Heroin Addiction: Then and Now

 With the recent death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman due to heroin overdose, the nation has a spotlight on the problem of heroin addiction and authorities are doing their best to crack down on those found selling and using the drug. The death of Hoffman has many people talking about the current trend for heroin making a strong comeback due to addicts replacing their pain pill addictions with the less expensive and more accessible heroin. Today we will take a look at the scope of heroin from its origin to its role in society today.

The origin of heroin

Opium comes from the sap of opium poppies, which was discovered way back in the days of Mesopotamia around 3400 BC. The Egyptians were the first ones recorded to use opium and from there it spread to Europe, China, and India.  Morphine was created from opium and physicians began using it as a pain reliever for patients in the 18th century and by the end of the century, physicians became aware of its highly addictive nature.

In 1874, heroin was synthesized as a treatment for those who had become addicted to morphine and began being immigrated to America shortly after the discovery. Those in America thought it was a safe and non-addictive solution, but was soon discovered to be just as addictive as morphine and was classified as an illegal drug in America in 1920 when Congress enacted the Dangerous Drug Act. The new law may have made the drug illegal, but by then there were approximately 200,000 heroin addicts in the United States.

Several heroin epidemics have occurred in the U.S. The first was right after World War II and the second came later in the 60s. The highest rate of use occurred between 1971 and 1977. During this time, many enlisted men used heroin during the Vietnam War, as opiates were not expensive at that time in that country and many of the men were not of age to purchase alcohol so heroin was an easy choice. They would either snort heroin or mix it with tobacco or marijuana and smoke it. When the Vietnam vets returned home addicted to heroin, there was a problem.

The use of heroin today

Much of the heroin that comes into the United States today comes for Asia, Latin America, Afghanistan, and Mexico. You can find it sold in a brownish or white powder or as a black sticky substance known as “black tar”. You can find heroin sold on the streets mixed with all sorts of ingredients like caffeine, powdered milk, sugar, cocaine, and more. The street names for heroin include junk, skag, smack, black tar, china white, and Mexican brown.

Once the Vietnam vets came home with serious heroin addiction problems, the government opened up many methadone clinics, as methadone had been found to be an effective opiate addiction treatment. Methadone remains a viable treatment option today, but is not available in some other nations.

Another treatment today is Buprenorphine, which was approved by the FDA in 2002. This drug has been helpful in treating opioid addiction and is conveniently prescribed from the doctor’s office so recovering addicts do not have to attend a clinic for treatment.

According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, heroin use has been increasing significantly. He states, "It cuts across all demographic groups. We used to think of a heroin as an inner city problem, but it's now a problem we're seeing across the nation among all populations and all ages."

It seems as law enforcement cracks down on pain pill clinics in an attempt to force them to change their formulas so that the pills are less addictive, opiate addicts have turned to heroin because it is cheap and easy to get hands on. For example, an 80 mg Oxycontin pill may sell for up to $100, but you can your hands on heroin five times a day for less than $60. 

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, heroin users increased dramatically from 2010 to 2012 from 239,000 to 335,000.  The rise is disheartening, as heroin is much more dangerous than pain pills and is much easier to overdose on. 

Authorities will continue to crack down on illegal substances, as the substance abuse professionals continue to reach out to addicts with a message of hope for a life free from drug use.  If you’re struggling with drug addiction, know that there is help available and reach out today.

About the Author: Dominica Applegate is an Author, and Speaker and Life Coach. She has a deep passion for discovering and sharing authentic spiritual truth that transforms people from the inside out. She is dedicated to the sacred art of self-discovery, creative expression, and adding value to humanity. Feel free to connect with her at Dominica Applegate and receive her free eBook, Recycle Pain: It Has a Purpose, and Help for Codependency.

Image: Flickr

Pat Moore Foundation teams up with D’Amore Healthcare. D'Amore Healthcare specializes in treating mental health and behavioral illness along with the wide variety of addictions such as alcoholism, opiate addiction, cocaine addiction, crystal meth addiction, and prescription drug abuse.

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