Parent Testimonials Video

The History Of Heroin

How Heroin Started

To understand the history of heroin one must know that heroin is a highly addictive illegal drug that is derived from opiates. Opiates have been used for centuries both recreationally and medically but the chemical diacetylmorphine, the medical name for heroin, was only synthesized in 1874 by a London chemist called C.R Alder Wright. He had been working on finding a less addictive pain treatment drug than morphine. The drug was tested on animals by another English researched and it was noted that they would often become sleepy and their breathing, although quickening at first, slowly become slower. The same thing happened to their heart rate.
Heroin Becoming Popular

The drug was synthesized again by Felix Hoffman, a researcher working for what is now known as Bayer in Germany. He produced a much more potent drug than originally intended. Heroin was then marketed as a cough syrup and a much less addictive form of morphine. They named this medicine 'heroin.'

Before both Alder Wright and Hoffman, opium was already popular and destructive in Europe and America. In 1830 twenty two thousand pounds of opium were imported into the United Kingdom. A couple of later, opium ingestion was responsible for nearly two hundred poisoning deaths. Over fifty of these were children. This was an indication of what was to come regarding the history of heroin.

In the year 1900, a philanthropic society aims to give heroin samples to all of those addicted to morphine as a less addictive and destructive drug. Many doctors wrote in medical journals that the withdrawal symptoms they observed in patients were just as bad as the one which was observed when patients were suffering from morphine withdrawal symptoms. It was later discovered that heroin metabolized into morphine much quicker than other drugs. By the year 1903, heroin addiction had risen considerably and was alarming to politicians and doctors alike.

Trying To Fix Things

Only two years later in 1905 congress decides to ban opium. At this time many doctors are already trying to find a cure to heroin addiction starting by recognizing the magnitude of the problem. The Pure Food and Drug Act is passed the same year. Pharmaceutical companies must now provide a label which specifies exactly what is in a specific medicine, which leads to a sharp decline in opiate intake.

In 1909, a federal prohibition law passes in The United States. This means that importing opium into the country is now against the law. A few months later in Shanghai representatives attempt to convince the international public of the damages that opium intake causes. In 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Act passes. Anybody who was able to prescribe an opiate needed to register and pay a tax while doing so. During the debate it was said that nearly 0.25% of Americans were addicted to opiates in one form or another. In 1922 importing crude opium into the United States was forbidden. This was followed closely by a banning off all illegal narcotics sales. Although this was intended to fix the problem, with a legitimate supply source completely gone, addicts were forced to buy from illegal drug vendors.

The Heroin Act is created in 1924. It bans the manufacturing and possession of heroin.

Heroin Use Falls

Without legitimate sources many addicts were forced to go to unsavory illegal narcotics distributors that ruled over particular parts of town. Although heroin is easily available in big cities like New York it is much more difficult to get in small towns and places where it is not imported or produced. The fact that the drug is no longer legal or sold in stores means that much less people are becoming addicted to it every day since it is a difficult drug to get and it is done by prescription only. Heroin and opium intake seem to be diminishing greatly. This remains this way until the 1950's.

The Heroin Epidemic

When America is at war in Asia in an attempt to make sure that communism does not spread the army is forced to form alliances with warlords. These are supplied with ammunition and aerial transportation for producing and selling opium which results in a massive spike in heroin's availability in the United States.

Ten years later, while the war in Vietnam was being blamed by many for the rise in taking heroin, the number of addicts reaches seven hundred and fifty thousand in the United States.

In 1970 an act that divides drugs into subcategories is passed. It is called The Controlled Substances Act. It defines which substances are in what category and what the legal consequences are for taking it. After the fall of Saigon, that which has been deemed the heroin epidemic seems to diminish considerably. Many famous and notable people have died when taking heroin overdoses. Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix and Tim Buckley are some notable examples of heroin overdoses turning deadly, some of them intentionally.

Heroin Today

The market for heroin is still prevalent today. Although it is a controlled substance that is currently at schedule 1 which means that heroin is illegal to possess, manufacture or sell without a particular license. As opposed to the United Kingdom and other European countries heroin is not user as a pain reliever of any sort and thus fits into the second statement of schedule one drugs which states that drugs that have no medical use in the United States will be in this particular schedule. It also has high potential for abuse and there is not enough medical evidence or treatment to make it safe to use this particular drug. Most countries policies follow these lines except for Portugal and Sweden. In Portugal, heroin use was decriminalized. In Switzerland heroin use is legal for addicts under the condition of an ongoing study.

Although statistics to find exactly how many people use the drug are very difficult to come by because not all of them are caught or simply willing to report that information. In 2008 about 700,000 people reported taking heroin at least once in the last year and according to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) almost 4 million Americans have tried taking heroin at least once in their lifetimes.