The History of Opiate Addiction in America

 In General

Opiates have a deep and interesting place in America’s history.

Opiates first came to America on the Mayflower in 1620. They were the popular choice for treating pain and were used for everything from soothing teething babies to treating menstrual cramps.

Several famous people in history relied on opiates to manage chronic pains and illnesses. Thomas Jefferson used opiates to control his diarrhea up until his death. After the civil war so many injured soldiers were using and addicted that opiates were commonly known as the ‘soldiers drug’.

American Government Takes Action Against Opiates

But it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that opiate use became recreational. Heroin was sold on a commercial level and addicts discovered how to amplify its effects by injecting it. There was no realistic alternative to treating pain but opiate’s addictive powers were starting to take a toll on the Nation.

In 1906, Teddy Roosevelt passed the Pure Food and Drug Act that required ‘any dangerous and addictive drugs to appear on the labels of products.’ Read more on CNN. The hope was that by educating consumers on the risk of addiction that there would be a decrease in consumption. However, the demand for opiates continued to grow.

Heroin finally became illegal in 1924 long after it’s addictive effects had spread across the nation. The hope to eliminate the use of heroin in the nation was short lived. In 1970 the abuse of heroin had gained some much attention that President Gerald Ford set up the Drug Enforcement Administration to study the growing problem of drug abuse. According to the Pain News Network, the DEA is still battling with opiates and plans to cut opioid supply in 2017 by 25%.

In 1996, the newest form of opiates known as OxyContin was introduced to the market. While it was welcomed by those in pain and the doctors treating them, it was still as dangerously addictive as the opiates before it. By August of 2010, the makers of OxyContin released a new formula that included an ‘abuse deterrent’. However, instead of helping users overcome their addiction they switched to heroin. When studied, users admitted that heroin was easier to use, cheaper and more easily available.

In 2001, the Joint Commission made a standard for treating patient pain.  This meant that if a doctor’s patients were still reporting chronic pain after treatment, the doctor would be punished. Doctors were told that patients with serious chronic pain were not able to become addicted to opiates. This threat of discipline coupled with the idea that opiates were not addicting to chronic pain patients encouraged the prescribing of opiates to patients. The standard was removed in 2009.

Opiate overdose in America

Now, more people die of prescription opiate abuse than that of heroin and cocaine combined. Opiates are the strongest tool available for treating pain but unfortunately, they can become addictive.

The Future of Opiates in America

Opiate addiction is not new to America, but there are new treatment options. At Opiate Treatment Centers of America, we start by understanding the history of your addiction. What are your triggers, what biological pieces are at play, do you need behavioral therapy to help achieve lasting recovery? All of these questions and more help us craft a custom approach to treating your addiction.

At OTCOA, our outpatient treatment program is affordable, accessible and effective. Our addiction specialists are committed to your long-term success.

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