Although heroin was invented in 1847, the history of heroin use in the United States began about 5,000 years ago with opium and morphine. Throughout history, it has been used for both medical purposes and recreational purposes. While some countries continue to use heroin in medical practice, this drug is best known for its dangerous side effects and addictive qualities. Our rehab center in Pennsylvania is sharing a brief history of heroin before and after it hit the U.S.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid drug that’s derived from morphine, which is a natural substance that’s taken from the seed of opium poppy plants. It can come in the form of a white or brown powder as well as a black sticky substance called black tar heroin. Heroin can be injected, smoked, or snorted. Some users also mix it with cocaine for speedballing. This opioid drug is known as one of the most addictive and dangerous in the drug market because of how quickly it causes addiction and how it affects the brain.
Heroin works by attaching itself to opioid receptors in the brain, increasing the release of a chemical called dopamine, a neurotransmitter that acts as a messenger between neurons. This chemical plays a big role in regulating mood and emotions as well as other basic functions like sleep. When dopamine is released, it produces feelings of euphoria and pleasure. This usually occurs naturally when a person eats or has sexual intercourse. Heroin artificially creates these side effects, which is what causes addiction.
At Clearbrook Pennsylvania, we offer a medical detox that serves as the first step in treating addiction. Detox focuses on weaning patients off of heroin while mitigating addiction cravings. Our detox programs are led by medical professionals that may also administer medication to treat physical symptoms as needed.
Heroin: A History
The history of heroin addiction starts with the opium poppy plant. Opium has been around for centuries and has been used for both medical and recreational purposes. Around 3,400 B.C., Mesopotamians and Sumerians grew opium poppies in what is now considered the Middle East. From there, Greece, Egypt, India, and eventually the Western and British empires obtained opium. Although this plant always existed, it wasn’t until 1804 that morphine was isolated by German pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner. He named it after the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus. Interestingly enough, morphine was used to treat pain and even opium addiction until its own potential for abuse was realized.
Isolation of Morphine
Morphine is another opioid drug that acts similarly to heroin and opioids. It causes severe addiction by causing a chemical imbalance in the brain. When people discovered that it was different from the usual tonics and pills that promised relief but failed to deliver, it was rampant throughout doctors’ offices. The invention of the hypodermic needle in the 1850s only ensured that more people would have access to it, and they did. Many were treated and saved with morphine during the American Civil War, but most soldiers returned with morphine addictions that would prove just as fatal. Fast forward a bit to 1874, when English chemist Charles Romney Alder Wright invented a new chemical called diacetylmorphine, diamorphine, or as it’s most commonly known, heroin.
Creation of Heroin
Heroin was shelved until 1897 when it came into prominence after chemist Felix Hoffman was ordered to make codeine but created a stronger drug called heroin instead. Despite Wright’s initial discovery of heroin years prior, Bayer, the pharmaceutical company Hoffman worked for, still sold heroin to treat coughs and alleviate pain. For several years, heroin continued to be used for medical purposes. During the First World War, kits containing morphine, heroin, and codeine would be sent to families to treat their loved ones’ wounds, creating more addicts. Because heroin detox and treatment didn’t exist back then, millions of people struggled with addiction to a drug that was falsely considered safe at the time.
In 1924, heroin became illegal in the U.S. and remains illegal to this day. Doctors in countries including Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Switzerland still use controlled doses of heroin to treat opioid addictions that are otherwise untreatable. Unfortunately, the history of heroin in the U.S. is ongoing and has grown worse since the opioid epidemic that began in the late 1990s. As a result, many individuals who have failed to receive heroin addiction treatment have suffered from overdose and overdose-related deaths.
Those who have fallen into the trap of heroin or opioid abuse can get help at our Clearbrook Pennsylvania location. Call Clearbrook Treatment Centers PA now at 570-536-9621 to learn more about our alcohol and drug treatment programs.