History of the Drug

History of the Drug Addiction Treatment
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Heroin works via its depressant properties, directly impacting the brain upon ingestion.

Within the brain, heroin is converted into morphine, binding to opioid receptors, neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of well-being. Heroin has a strong impact on the organic neurological reward pathways inherent in the human brain. Reward system areas of the brain are responsible for automatic processes essential for survival, such as breathing and blood pressure. Thus, heroin overdose is often characterized by respiratory suppression, coma and/or death.


When heroin is used on a regular basis, it inflicts a shift in the brain’s functioning, altering the user’s ability to make rational decisions related to drug use. The addictive mind overtakes the logical portion of the brain and dictates the decisions and thoughts. Normally one now at this point would enter a drug rehab center for help.

History of Heroin

Prior to 1874, heroin was exchanged among Arab traders during the 7th and 8th centuries AD, according to ancient literature. At the time, opium was transported to China where it was used medicinally up until the start of the 17th century.

The Victorian era is infamous for its opium use among several different demographics; at the time, opium was taken in pill form or as laudanum. Laudanum is soluble heroin; individuals at the time would dissolve the Laudanum in alcohol for intensified effects.

In 1874, heroin was first synthesized from morphine. An English researcher, C.R. Wright, synthesized heroin by boiling morphine and acetic anhydride over a stove. He tested his creation on dogs and determined that the drugs caused “great prostration, fear, and sleepiness speedily following the administration and a slight tendency to vomiting.” As a result, he discontinued his experiments. Approximately 20 years later, German scientists toyed with Wright’s recipe. Afterwards, German scientists announced that diacetylmorphine was an ideal solution for the treatment of respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, chronic coughing, asthma and tuberculosis. Heroin’s use in the medical community became widespread in the early 1900s. During this time period, physicians and patients alike were oblivious to the harmful and addictive effects of heroin, known at the time as diacetylmorphine.

Side Effects

German scientists also claimed that heroin was synonymous with morphine and codeine. Oblivious to the severe heroin addiction risks and addictive nature of heroin, Bayer’s chemical cartel of Germany invested in these claims, manufactured the drug and called it “heroin” to appeal to the masses. The brand image took off, and advertisements began to permeate throughout the media at the time. Inherent in advertisement messages was the notion that heroin could be prescribed as a “cure-all” substance. Its capabilities would be considered in treating a variety of disorders and diseases within the medical community.

Such widespread administration of heroin inevitably led to a staggering number of substance abuse issues.

Legislation associated with the restriction of heroin use did not emerge until the Harrison Narcotic Act was passed in 1914. In 1924, US narcotics officials estimated that over 200,000 addicts suffered from an opiate addiction at the time. In New York, more than 94 percent of addicts arrested for crimes were under the influence of heroin while they were committing the crime. These and other national-level crises led to the Harrison Narcotic Act. At this time, it was classified as a Schedule I drug — one of the most dangerous drugs in existence – and determined to be inappropriate for further administration in hospitals, medical facilities and clinics.

Between 1853 and 1874, heroin was rarely injected intravenously.

The tools through which heroin would eventually be absorbed into the bloodstream intravenously were generated by Charles Gabriel Pravaz, a French surgeon. At the same time Pravaz came out with the invention, Alexander Wood, a Scottish physician, invented the fine-point, hypodermic needle for intravenous ingestion of medicine as well. Both professionals invented the needle-syringes with fine points for purposes of morphine injection. It was during this time that heroin use through intravenous needles took off.

Both physicians’ discoveries led to a higher standard of healthcare within the US, allowing more effective treatment for patients undergoing severe pain. However, this discovery also spawned a greater number of drug addictions.

Currently, there are many street terms used to describe ones heroin addiction. Some commonly heard street terms for heroin include “smack,” “thunder,” “hell dust,” “big H,” “nose drops,” “ska,” “junk,” “skag” and “H.”

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