The seriousness of the opioid epidemic, arguably the worst crisis in the United States, was underlined by President Donald Trump’s statement as he declared it a public health emergency: “Nobody has seen anything like what’s going on now.” However, this is not unprecedented, as the nation was ravaged by similar addictions in the past, although the current state is far worse.
The level of addiction in the past could be ascertained by the passage of laws at that time. The 1915 Harrison Narcotics Act, passed by the Congress, mandated anyone importing, producing, selling or dispensing narcotics to register and pay a tax those days. This helped the authorities maintain a detailed record of the narcotics produced and used. This clearly indicates that today’s opioid crisis had a parallel in history.
Civil War, morphine, heroin and cocaine
During the Civil War and in the aftermath, many of the soldiers began to take morphine, then a new pharmaceutical drug. This was the first manmade opioid ever. Soon, people started getting addicted to the drug. As morphine was abused rampantly, a new drug – heroin – came into existence during the 1900 as a cure for drug addiction.
Thus one drug led to another as the addiction problem spiraled and went on to create a vicious cycle. To contain the morphine addiction, the drug makers then developed cocaine, which then became the official elixir for the Hay Fever Association because it cleared nasal passages too.
According to David Courtwright, a historian from the University of North Florida, and an author of many books on the drug epidemic in the U.S., the crisis kept shifting over the years and situations in the past were similar to the current imbroglio. “There are one or two or three wolves ahead of the pack that seem to be the most pressing threat, their jaws closest to you,” he said.
Similar to what Trump said now about the opioid crisis, the then President William Taft also cited the addiction pattern in 1910 as the most serious problem America had faced until that time.
Learning from the past
Generally, as seen during the last two centuries, the drug epidemic was only worsened by pharmaceutical companies and physicians who pushed products that were too addictive in nature. Each time they came up with some new drug as a solution, it complicated the situation further.
Drawing an analogy to addictions in the past or studying the history of addictions over centuries can empower us with the knowledge to deal with the present crisis. However, experts believe that there is hope. If past trends are any indication, there is a silver lining, because new addictions decrease considerably when there is a slump in supply and demand.
A different form of addiction afflicted America over the centuries. During the 1800s it was often opium that troubled the people. Although people used to get high on opium, it was with morphine that the actual problem of drug addiction started. Then came cocaine and heroin, which gradually exacerbated the situation.
It was only in the mid-20th century when the nation actually started raging a war against drugs. Cigarettes and alcohol killed thousands, yet there was a flurry of other drugs lashing the country. Amphetamines, developed in the 1930s, really took off in the 1950s drawing thousands of people to its addictive quality.
Dealing with addiction
The present scenario is also among the worst in the history of the country. Millions of people have succumbed to overdoses. While addiction is fatal when left untreated, one can overcome it with timely and right intervention.
If you have a loved one grappling with an addiction, seek immediate help. Sovereign Health is a leading substance abuse treatment provider in the United States, offering various evidence-based programs to patients. Apart from conventional treatment, our experts make use of neurotransmitter therapy and various behavioral therapies for the best results. Call our 24/7 helpline for immediate assistance or chat online with our representative for more information on our detox treatment centers in California and other states of the U.S.