The current opioid crisis has left many wondering how exactly something like this happened. In order to better understand the crisis as it stands today, it helps to make sense of opioid history. Seeing how the drugs have changed can show us how they got to this point…
Opioid History: Track A Crisis
Opioid history really begins with natural opioids. Perhaps the best-known of these is opium. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians used opium for pain treatment, as did many in early Europe. Even those like Hippocrates saw opium as a miracle pain killer.
Eventually, the demand for opium would get so high than nations would begin trading in it heavily. The British especially saw opium trading into China as a way to make a profit, despite the Chinese ban on the drug. These opium disputes would be the cause of not one, but two wars between the countries.
Rise of synthetics
While opium remained popular for some time, eventually the next step of opioid history would take place. Morphine, invented in 1804 from opium, really started the modern medical drug industry. Many people saw morphine as a “cure all” drug which could get rid of anything bothering them.
Over time, this would lead to the development of synthetic opioids. Drug companies marketed these new pills as life changers with no real downside. However, while people may not have realized it yet, they would soon. The reality was these drugs were very addictive, and could lead to a whole host of health issues.
Seeing the effects these drugs had lead many countries to heavily regulated them. The U.S. was the same, making non-medical usage illegal in 1914. For a long time, people in the U.S. opposed any opioids unless they were a last-resort by a doctor. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the original restrictions were relaxed.
This then goes into the current phase of opioid history. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, many drug companies pushed for opioids again, claiming their new ones weren’t addictive. This lead to a rush of prescriptions, and in turn, a huge increase in addiction which is still seen today.