Opioid Epidemic in the USA Pt. 1: How did we get here?

Opioids are everywhere in the United States. With congress, even our president, calling out the need to fight our current “Opioid Epidemic” it’s hard not to ask the questions: so how did we get here, and is it really as serious as it sounds?

Since before the US Civil War opioids have been used for pain relievers. As time progressed, opioids widely became known as a wonder drug, prescribed for as little as a common cold! The attitude toward the drug was so casual that Bayer (the Aspirin company) even started releasing heroin commercially. As the prohibition on alcohol was growing in popularity and became public policy, the prevalence of opioids spread across a country steeped in the recovery from the first world war.


First Signs of a Problem

Around the mid 1920’s it became clear, however, that there was a series problem with the frequent and pervasive use of opioids throughout the country. The addictive qualities of the drug became apparent and soon the acquisition, sale, and distribution of heroin was banned in the mid 1920’s.


Decades of Opioid Abuse

Between the 1950’s and 1990’s, heroin addiction was something you heard about in conjunction with rock n’ roll and celebrity circles as the public saw figures like Hank Williams and Janis Joplin, as well as other musicians and artists were lost due to overdose.

With the Vietnam War, heroin addiction rose in prevalence among soldiers to a significant enough degree, that President Nixon called drug addiction “public enemy number one”. Even so, the drug spread.

Opioids can cause respiratory depression, even respiratory failure leading death. As you are reading this, millions of US citizens are teetering on the dangerous line from addiction to overdose, and the thing is, many of them got there through the use of legally consumed prescription drugs.

Continue to Part 2


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