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The History of Drugs

According to The World Health Organization a drug is a substance that, when introduced into an organism by anyway of administration can alter the central nervous system in the individual that is using it.
The custom of using drugs for recreation is not new.

Historically humankind has always consumed mind altering substances that alter the functioning of the central nervous system. Alcohol and opiates were the first psychoactive drugs used for these means approximately 5000 BC. It is thought that hemp (cannabis sativa, also known as marijuana) was used in China in the year 4000 BC. In South America's the Incas harvested the coca leaf (erythroxilum coca lam) three times a year and used it both as a painkiller and a daily energizer especially to cope with the fatigue produced by the altitude. In Aztec society the consuming of a mushroom called teonanacati was used as was peyote for religious reasons. Drug history is very complex and long.

The History of Alcohol

Archeological discoveries have revealed that there were pots available by the year 8000 BC and that by the year 5000 BC they were used for storing honey. From there it is thought that honey was fermented and diluted in water. This is the first wine known to mankind. Since then alcohol has been part of most human life. Fermented drinks were frequent in all communities and became important articles of colonial commercialization. During the 20th century when globalization happened, particularly after world war two, alcohol stopped being associated with food and the current trend is to drink great quantities with friends as a social and leisure activity.
The History of Opiates
Opiates have a very long history. Opium, the juice from a type of poppy seed, is one of the most versatile drugs known to men. Thanks to its active ingredient morphine it reduces pain, produces euphoria and induces lethargy and sleep. It comes from Asia and has been used there for about 5000 years. Generally people mixed opium with food and it was only in the 15th century when the Chinese started to smoke it around the time that tobacco was introduced.
By the early 1800s the Chinese destroyed great shipments of opium which led to Britain intervening and the first of the so-called opium wars. It finalized a few years later with Great Britain owning Hong Kong and five other Chinese ports. The second opium war happened not much later and its conclusion was the legalization of importing opium into China.
By the end of the 19th century the Chinese had been forced by foreign governments to make more commercial and territorial concessions and after the year 1900 the Chinese authorities made a huge effort to completely reorganize the country, which included an opium eradicating campaign. Twelve years later it was illegal to import, produce and use opium recreationally.
However opium flourished in Great Britain at the end of the same century in pharmacological treatments that were consumed by the working class since they rarely had money for other medicines. This permitted that the use of opium was in pill form or with a preparation with pure opium, distilled water and alcohol. Both preparations could be acquired freely, even in supermarkets. It was used medically and curatively for a long time and inspired many British romantics like Byron, Shelley and Keats.
Morphine is named after the god of dreams and sleep Morpheus. It was synthesized from opium at the beginning of the 19th century by German Fiedrich William Sertuner and ended up substituting opium in medical treatments, especially after the introduction of the hypodermic injection as a therapeutic treatment. In 1874 heroin was synthesized and marketed by Beyer. It was used as an opium and morphine substitute and stopped being produced only many years later. Heroin started becoming a popular recreational drug in the United States and in England first with the rest of the world following. This created a few waves of heroin addicting with resulted in the death of at least one generation of heroin dependent individuals. After the 70s and 80s heroin has become the poster child for the dangers of drugs.
Cannabis and Its Derivates
The use and consuming of cannabis is also very old. Originally from central Asia the cannabis plant is thought to have been harvested as far as 10000 years ago. Hemp was used for textiles like ropes, clothes, sheets and ship components. It was discovered to be a psychedelic agent for the first time in the Far East.
In medieval Europe it was widely used by people who practiced witchcraft and later doctors started using it as a remedy. Hildegard von Binger recommended its use for stomach problems and for wounds. During the 19th century it was used recreationally and medically. It stopped being used by doctors when more effective medicines were found. Cannabis abuse was always restricted to certain groups until the 1960's when hippie culture and rock and reggae music expanded its use to all social levels. It was then associated with rebellious youth.

Currently cannabis is consumed in the west in three different ways: marijuana, hashish or hash, and hashish oil. The first one is dry leaves and flowers from the plant and the THC in it can vary between 0.5% and 5%. Some genetically mutated marijuana plants can present up to 37% THC. Hashish is the resin obtained from the plant and its concentration varies from between 10 to 20%. Hashish oil usually varies from 15% to 50% but can be as potent as 85% THC content.
Cocaine is a stimulant that works by modulating dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is found in certain parts of the brain. It has been called the drug of the seventies, eighties and nineties due to its popularity and use, but it is not a new drug. Cocaine has existed for over a hundred years but the coca leaf has been use for thousands as a medicinal herb and to create remedies.
In the mid 19th century pure cocaine was extracted from the first time out of the coca plant and it was soon to become a mainstay ingredient in medicinal tonic and elixirs to treat different ailments. Currently it is a schedule one drug in the United States but it is used medically in other countries like the United Kingdom.