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History of Heroin Addiction

history of heroin addiction

The history of heroin goes back to the 1800s, beginning life as a legal medical treatment. When heroin addiction became a problem, it was banned in the U.S. Since then, illegal trafficking and continued abuse of the drug have caused a great deal of damage for millions. 

History of Heroin Addiction: The Origins of Heroin

Heroin is an illegal drug that is made from opium. It is extracted from the poppy plant called Papaver somniferum. The opium poppy is the main ingredient in many synthetic narcotics, including codeine and morphine. 

Opium has been around for thousands of years, dating back to the Mediterranean region. Heroin is made from the poppy plant. The process of creating heroin involves scraping out the milky fluid that seeps out of the seedpods of the poppy plant. 

Opium products have a long history of being used as part of medical treatments. Morphine and codeine proved popular for a long period of time over a century ago. Heroin went into production in the late 1800s. 

Companies like the Bayer Company, famous for its aspirin, began to sell heroin. A major part of the history of heroin is that it was marketed as a cough suppressant and used to treat diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia. Many doctors used it as a treatment for mental health disorders. Heroin also began to be used to treat pain related to childbirth and war injuries, as well as an anesthetic. 

While initially touted as a medical miracle, many people experienced heroin addiction, causing the medical community to rethink its usage. In 1924, heroin was banned in the U.S. and is now classified as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs are considered to have no acceptable medical use and have a high risk for addiction. 

Heroin Addiction Becomes a Crisis

Before heroin was banned in the U.S., its potential as an addictive drug had become apparent. This led to the decision to make it illegal. Once heroin became illegal, drug traffickers stepped in and began delivering the narcotic to consumers. Heroin, as it used today, is injected, snorted, smoked, or sniffed.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health stated that as recently as 2016 almost 950,000 Americans reported that they had used heroin in the previous year.  Of those, about 170,000 had tried it for the first time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2019 more than 14,000 people died from a heroin-related overdose. The number of this type of overdose was more than seven times higher than it was just twenty years earlier. Almost one-third of all opioid deaths involved heroin.

These alarming statistics point out how prevalent heroin addiction has become and the necessity to address it. A person who has become addicted to heroin puts themselves at a high risk of dangerous results and even death.

While heroin users report feeling euphoria and other pleasurable feelings when high on the drug, many also experience negative side effects. These can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling warm
  • Itchy skin
  • Heaviness in the limbs
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Passing back and forth between consciousness and semiconsciousness
  • Passing out

Long-term usage of heroin can result in serious medical consequences such as collapsed veins and organ damage. Intravenous drug use also places a person at risk of contracting diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis.

Addiction to Opioids 

While heroin is illegal now, the history of heroin shows that many people still abuse and become addicted to other drugs from the opioid family. For some, taking opioids starts innocently enough. Doctors often prescribe opioids for moderate to severe pain in their patients. The pain may be chronic or temporary, resulting from an accident or injury.

While a person may initially use their opioid prescription as directed and under medical supervision, that behavior can change. Often an individual builds up a tolerance to their prescription opioid and begins to increase their dosage and how often they take it. This can lead to an addiction.

Other people who do not have a prescription for opioid medications may use them as a recreational drug or a way to relax and deal with the difficulties in their lives. They also risk abusing the drug and becoming addicted.

Some of the most common prescription opioid drugs include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Hydrocodone

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawing from heroin is a difficult process that requires medical supervision. Withdrawal symptoms typically start soon after the last time someone takes heroin and they can last for several days. Symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Shaking
  • Muscular spasms
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings for heroin

How to Treat Heroin Addiction

Knowing about the history of heroin is one thing, but needed help and getting it is another. A person who has reached the stage of being addicted to heroin requires professional treatment. Trying to quit heroin alone or at home can be extremely dangerous. Professional treatment for heroin addiction usually begins with a detoxification program or “detox” for short. 

Detox is the process of the body ridding itself of the toxins related to the drug to which a person is addicted. Detox typically takes place in a residential or hospital setting. This allows the patient to be monitored for side effects from withdrawal and given appropriate treatment to help ease the symptoms. Psychological support may be provided, owing to the fact that emotional issues and reactions may arise as a person comes off heroin usage.

The next step may involve residential treatment. Once a person has completed the detox process, they can begin recovery with a clear head. A residential program, which can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, helps the person adjust to living without heroin. Treatment plans may include individual therapy, group therapy, and holistic treatment modalities.

After completing a residential program, a person may choose from many options for the next step. Sober living houses offer a home environment living with other people in recovery. Once a person returns home, they can utilize outpatient services, individual therapy, support groups, and other methods to help them continue their recovery.

Heroin Addiction Treatment in Texas

If you are experiencing an addiction to heroin and need help, Casa Colina can help. We are a residential treatment program in the Dallas area offering luxury treatment for men who want to conquer their addictions. We provide holistic treatment, equine therapy, yoga, meditation, and many other options from our beautiful setting that feels like a real home.

For more information about how Casa Colina can help you turn your life around, contact us today. 

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