Opioid Crisis Timeline & the Evolution of Need for Arizona Opioid Treatment
The opioid crisis was officially defined as a public health emergency by the White House in 2017. That doesn’t mean that opioids have only been a problem recently, though. Opioid abuse dates back hundreds of years.
Opioid Crisis Timeline: Ancient Use of Opioids
Opioids, which include heroin and morphine, are derived from the poppy plant. History explains that the narcotic was used in ancient Mesopotamia as early as 3400 B.C.
When the British conquered a major poppy-cultivating region of India in the 1700s and 1800s, the opium trade became a lucrative way for Great Britain to buy luxury goods. Because many Chinese were succumbing to opium addiction, authorities tried to suppress the use of the drug.
The Opium Wars occurred as Britain and France tried to maintain the opium trade while China attempted to stop it. Even though many people were suffering from addiction, big profits caused the opium trade to continue as China was defeated in the Opium Wars.
Opioid Crisis Timeline: Opioids as Medication in the 1800s
The Atlantic reports that Hippocrates, who was touted as the “father of medicine,” prescribed a juice made from poppies for certain ailments. Medications containing opium continued to be used to treat medical conditions and prepare patients for surgery.
Opioids became increasingly popular in the 1800s, after German chemist Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Sertürner isolated morphine from opium. The drug had a variety of medical uses, but doctors began to notice that it had addictive effects. Approximately 400,000 soldiers developed morphine addictions after using it to manage pain during the Civil War.
In 1898, heroin was introduced by Bayer pharmaceutical company as a non-addictive alternative to morphine. Free samples were sent to people who were dependent on morphine in an attempt to help them overcome their addiction.
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Opioid Crisis Timeline: Opioids in the 1900s
By 1908, opioid use was so out of hand that President Theodore Roosevelt appointed an Opium Commissioner, and the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 was passed. This allowed the U.S. government to control and restrict sales of the drug. Heroin manufacturing, importation, exportation and selling was made illegal with the Anti-Heroin Act of 1924.
German scientists developed oxycodone in 1916. They thought that it would provide the same pain-killing power as morphine and heroin without the addictive effects.
The FDA gained oversight over drugs in 1938. By this time, pharmaceuticals needed to be proven safe to be prescribed to patients. Many opium derivatives were still allowed to be prescribed during this time. A combination of oxycodone and aspirin was approved by the FDA in 1950 and sold under the brand name Percodan.
By the 1970s, officials began to regulate drug use even further. The government passed the Controlled Substances Act, or CSA, in 1970, which intensified the regulation of certain powerful drugs, including narcotics, hallucinogens, stimulants and anabolic steroids. The CSA organizes different substances into schedules based on their safety, accepted medical usage, potential for abuse and likelihood of addiction. Different opiates fall into different schedules, depending on their medical utility.
The Modern Opioid Crisis
Pharmaceutical companies experimented with various types of opioids for the next few decades. In fact, they’re still doing so today.
In the 1980s, many doctors were afraid to prescribe opioids because of their potential for addiction. As cocaine became an increasing problem, heroin abuse seemed infrequent in comparison. Doctors began experimenting with using narcotics to treat pain in terminally ill individuals.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that drug companies were confident patients wouldn’t become addicted to the newer opioid products on the market. Therefore, physicians began to prescribe them more frequently for a variety of medical conditions.
Time-release capsules were developed in the hopes that they would quell some of the potential for addiction. Experts believed that allowing the drug to enter the bloodstream slowly would prevent people from developing an addiction, but many people would crush the pills to negate the slow absorption time.
When OxyContin entered the marketplace in 1996, it was expected to be effective as a long-term painkiller. Patients with chronic pain said that it changed their lives. Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin, launched marketing efforts that downplayed the possibility of becoming addicted to the drug. However, in 2000, the company pled guilty to a charge of misbranding the medication.
Most of the research into using opioids for long-term pain has consisted of short-term trials. What’s more, many studies show that using these medications over time can actually increase the perception of pain. Opioids are some of the only medications that are routinely used for non-fatal conditions but kill people frequently.
Opioids were easy to get. Doctors were encouraged to prescribe them, and patients could use them legally. Some people began to exaggerate their symptoms to get the drugs. The number of opioid prescriptions increased, and the drugs were also sold on the street and college campuses.
Many people who struggle with painkiller addiction eventually move on to heroin because it’s cheaper. Injecting the drug delivers a faster high and makes you more likely to become addicted.
Opioid Use Statistics
CNN explains that there were about 18,000 opioid-related deaths in 1999. According to The Atlantic, in that year, more than 4 million people were using prescription drugs recreationally. In 2014, more than 28,000 deaths were linked with opioid abuse. That number jumped to 33,000 in 2015.
Opioid overdoses increased by about 30 percent from 2016 to 2017 in 45 states. The government is taking action to support education on appropriate opioid prescription and administration. For example, in Arizona, a state of emergency was declared on June 5, 2017, after the government confirmed 790 opioid-related deaths in the state. The emergency has now been lifted, and Arizona opioid treatment facilities are available to people who struggle with addiction.
Opioid addiction is still considered an epidemic, though. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 11.5 million people misused prescription narcotics in 2016. If you’re struggling to stop using narcotics, call our Arizona opioid treatment facility to learn how we can help you get out of the cycle and find hope.
Help for those with Opioid Addiction
If you’re one of the many of Americans struggling with opioid addiction, help is available. Professional counselors are ready to walk you through your recovery based on your individual needs and provide education for family members and loves ones. Our staff is ready to help you begin your journey to sobriety, contact us today.