History Of Heroin:
Heroin is a pain killer, or opioid, meaning it’s made from distilling morphine. Morphine, in turn, is made from opium.
Heroin’s creation starts with opium, which is made by curing the sap or “latex” of the Opium Poppy Plant that grows indigenously in the Middle East, Asia, and Mexico. When smoked, opium dulls pain and induces a euphoric twilight state.
The history of the opium plant is a long one. It has been grown and traded for its pain relief properties for thousands of years — going as far back as 3400 BC. Archaeologists have unearthed pictographs of the opium poppy from the ruins of Ancient Sumeria (think Biblical times) where it was referred to as Hul Gil or “joy plant.”
Three thousand years later, opium would reach China via Arab traders. From then until the 13th-century opium was only used by doctors in India, Asia, and the Middle East for treating pain or by priests for certain religious healing rituals. However, when opium reached Europe in the 1300s it became available for recreational use. Addiction and overdoses skyrocketed.
In 1806, scientists distilled opium hoping they could find something just as powerful but less addictive. The result was morphine which turned out to be both more powerful and more addictive than opium.
To combat the rising number of morphine overdoses and addictions, in 1874, Bayer pharmaceutical (the inventors of aspirin) further distilled morphine to create heroin. Bayer claimed heroin could treat pain, morphine addiction, and was not addictive so heroin was added to aspirin and sold to the public. But again, heroin turned out to be even more powerful and addictive than morphine, and when the US outlawed heroin in 1920 hundreds of thousands of people had overdosed.
In 1920, heroin was classified as a Schedule 1 Narcotic that has no medicinal value and is highly abusable. Meaning it is never prescribed in the United States. Thanks to government ad campaigns and tight regulations, heroin, and opioid deaths saw a significant decline from the middle of the 20th century until the 1990s when the first opioid epidemic began. As a result of the opioid epidemic started by Purdue Pharmaceuticals, heroin use rose. Today heroin has the second-highest number of overdose deaths in the United States.
Opioids vs Opiates:
Heroin is an opioid, not an opiate. Although most people use the terms ‘opioid’ and ‘opiate’ interchangeably there is a difference. Opioids like heroin, Oxycontin, and Vicodin are all made from morphine.
On the other hand, opiates like morphine, codeine, and opium are made directly from the sap and seeds of the opium poppy plant. So, while opioids like heroin were created in the early 1900s — opiates like opium have existed for millennia.
Getting Over Heroin:
The idea of a loved one being addicted to heroin can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, heroin addiction is very treatable, so if you believe someone you love is using it, you should plan to have a conversation about getting them help. If you need help with any of this, we can guide you. Give us a call at 855-202-2138.