A Short History of Opiates

America has an opioid crisis and its causes and solutions are complex. In our efforts to find a solution to our current problems, it may help to take a look back at the past.


An Ancient Drug

Many people seem to think of drugs as being a recent phenomenon. This is far from true. The poppies that opium comes from were cultivated around 3400 BCE, long before even the Epic of Gilgamesh was written. In ancient Mesopotamia it was referred to as “the joy plant” giving you some idea of how it was used.

Later, it was used by people like Hippocrates and Alexander the Great as a sedative. From there it was traded to the Far East and eventually to Europe. It was used as a medicine and recreationally.


Modern History

Morphine was discovered in 1806 and named for the God of Dreams. It became a principle painkiller and saw major use in the civil war and for “female ailments”. Because of its prevalence in the civil war, so many people became addicted, that dependency on morphine became known as the “soldier’s disease.”

In 1898, heroin was created. The Bayer company began marketing it as a cough suppressant, advertising it as a non-addictive alternative. Yeah.

In the early 20th century laws began to pass to ban the import of non-medical opiates. This is what many people consider to be one possible beginning of the war on drugs. Opiates and new opioids began to be used frequently in the 60s. The government responded by creating schedules for drugs. Nixon also created the Drug Enforcement Agency to fight his war on drugs.

The next major change was the release of Oxycontin which was marketed as a cheap and safe alternative. But it people quickly found ways using it recreationally, particularly in regions such as Appalachia and Florida as well as in developing countries.

That brings us to now. Some awareness is setting in and there are legal and social changes occurring that we might not know the full consequence of till much later.

But that’s the large scale. On the small scale, here and now, real lives are affected. If you are addicted to an opioid, please seek help. Call us to learn about your detox options at (844) 299-0618.


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