Opiate Drugs

Opiate Drugs

Opiate drugs have been known for centuries. The opium poppy was grown as long ago as 3400 BC. In 1700, the practice of smoking opium was introduced into China. By 1729, smoking opium was banned in China. Despite this, the British were importing 2000 chests per year of opium into China by 1767. China banned opium completely in 1799. British traders then started importing about half of the world’s yearly production of opium into Europe and the United States beginning around 1800.

United States, 1800 to 1923

Opiate drugs were handed out like candy during this period of time and the Doctor’s gave it to anyone that asked for the drugs. Doctors and pharmacists freely prescribed the drugs, often in the form of laudanum or morphine. Many of the patent remedies that were peddled by traveling medication salesmen contained opiate drugs – which, of course,Opiate Drugs was not revealed by the seller. The concept of widespread opiate addiction was finally noticed in the United States during the Civil War (1860’s). By 1900, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 300,000 Americans were addicted to opiates. Most of the addicts were middle-aged, middle-class women who had been addicted by their physicians.

During this period of time, the government and law enforcement were not involved in drug use. Drug use was considered to be a private matter, and addiction was considered to be either a medical or a personal problem. By the 1880s, medicine had certainly noticed the concept of addiction. Some physicians began to specialize in studying it and trying to treat it. Many of the theories and questions discussed during this time period have not yet been settled – is addiction a symptom of a neurological disorder or is it a moral failing; should withdrawal be rapid or gradual; and how best to actually treat an addict who desires to be treated. Due to a complete lack of regulations, doctors often offered private asylums where they experimented on patients in efforts to cure their addictions – diets, electric shock, baths, and a wide assortment of other methods were tried.

Most addicts during this era simply continued using the widely-available opiates instead of seeking treatment. Laudanum Laudanum is a preparation of 10% opium in alcohol. It is approximately equivalent in potency to a solution of 1% morphine. During the 1800s it was widely used as a painkiller, sleep aid, cough suppressant and diarrhea remedy. It was available for sale practically everywhere, no prescription required. It was the Victorian era’s equivalent of aspirin, cough syrup and Imodium, all in one. It was used as a general-purpose medicine – fed to fussy infants, given to adults dying from cholera, and taken by anyone suffering from practically any symptom. Laudanum is still available by prescription today. Heroin Morphine, the active ingredient in opium, was purified in 1805 – the first pure drug ever. Prior to morphine, medications were all crude preparations of plants. However, after the realization that pure drugs had many advantages over plant extracts, chemists eagerly began trying to purify the active ingredients from an assortment of plant-based remedies.

The invention of the hypodermic syringe in 1853 allowed doctors to administer precise doses of these new, pure drugs. Heroin was first synthesized in 1874, the first synthetic drug ever; the second was aspirin. Both were created by Bayer in England. Heroin was, of course, synthesized from pure morphine. At first, heroin was promoted as a painkiller to be used for patients dying from pneumonia and tuberculosis. Soon heroin was widely used as a general-purpose painkiller. Some doctors at first thought that heroin might be a less addictive substitute for morphine, but by 1902 it was clear that not only was heroin more addictive than morphine, it had far worse withdrawal symptoms. In 1910 a heroin addict was admitted to Bellevue Hospital for treatment, its first. In 1915 the hospital admitted 425 heroin addicts. At the time, abusers snorted the powdered drug. By 1924 addicts had discovered that injection of the drug provided a much more euphoric high. The manufacture of heroin was banned in the United States in 1924 and it has remained both a criminal and an addiction/social problem ever since.

The United States, 1923 to 1965

The concepts of long-term maintenance of opiate addicts and ambulatory detoxification were developed during the early 1900s, but were abandoned shortly thereafter when the last maintenance clinic was closed in Louisiana in 1923.Opiate Drugs The clinics were closed because the government had begun outlawing the use of narcotics for non-medical reasons. The rest of this era was characterized by criminalization of addiction and drug use, with punishment of addicts taking precedent over treatment. Interestingly, in the 1800s, most addicts were “medical addicts” suffering from various chronic illnesses and pain syndromes who were addicted through efforts to relieve their suffering.

By the early 1900s, though, most addicts were young individuals who had become addicted during pleasure-seeking efforts. This change in the character of the addict is almost certainly linked to the change in society’s perception of addicts from a personal problem to a criminal problem. Cocaine and heroin use among the poor and disadvantaged became wide-spread during the early 1900s. Cocaine use in particular, was linked in the public mind to criminal acts. Addiction began to be seen as something akin to sexually transmitted diseases – something repulsive and destructive that was acquired by degenerates seeking immoral pleasure. This viewpoint did not begin to change until 1965 when the concept of addiction as a medical problem began to re-emerge.

When Did They Realize the Problem?

Although officially the addictive properties of opiates weren’t recognized until the 1860s, it is more than likely that the addictive properties of opium were well-known by the 1700s. The Chinese Emperor’s ban of opium smoking in 1729 strongly suggests the problem of opium addiction was well-known by that point in time, at least in China. Doctors in the early 1800s may have been able to ignore the addictive properties of their medicines because only a certain small proportion of their patients became overly addicted.

As is commonly observed today, most individuals who use opiate drugs for legitimate medical users don’t become addicted. Possibly the ever-expanding medical indications for opiate use in the 1800s crossed the line of “legitimate” at some point – perhaps when doctors began giving it to large numbers of healthy middle-class women – and then it became impossible for doctors and the general public to ignore the addictive features of opiates.

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