Our Love of Opiates
When we speak of opiates and opiate addiction, we are primarily referring to opium, morphine, heroin, and some prescription opioids.
The use, and abuse, of these drugs has been regarded politically, legally, socially and medically mainly based on the socioeconomic group affected at any given time. Opiates garnered early appreciation and use by those in the healing trades very early in our country’s history – opiates were used extensively as a pain killer during the Civil Way, for example. Opiates were also popular as an ingredient in commercial products at one time, such as pain elixirs, cough suppressants and beverages used as a pick-me-up or “refresher”.
By the early 20th century the introduction of the hypodermic needle changed opiate abuse and attitudes toward opium use and opium addiction began to change as many opium addicts were no longer Civil War veterans or women who had used opiates for menstrual pain, but younger Americans, usually poor, who then turned to crime to acquire the drug. Addiction was then viewed as a moral problem.
A Long History of Opiate Addiction
Because opiates have been a part of our culture for so long, so has opiate addiction.
In the 19th century the persona of the older addicted matron using an opiate elixir of some kind was the common image associated with opiate addiction, such as that Eugene O’Neil featured in “Long Day’s Journey into Night”.
By the early 20th century heroin, in particular, originally introduced in the 1890s as a cough suppressant, along with morphine, became popular drugs to use in intravenously. This gave rise to the classic image of the “junkie”.
After World War Two, as European immigrant populations moved toward the suburbs and Hispanic and African American populations moved in, these later groups inherited the existing drug culture of these ghettos and also generated addicts of their own. Particularly popular with musicians, opiates enjoyed wide spread usage in the 1960s as the youth “drug culture” embraced all drugs that had a mind altering, mood altering or euphoric effect.
By the year 2000 nearly a million Americans were addicted to some form of opiate.
Recovering from an Addiction to Opiates
In the early part of the 20th century rehab for addiction to opiates simply meant a stint in a sanatorium. Most addicts who were sent to one usually came out and relapsed and it was then thought that opiate addiction was hopeless.
This theory was reversed following Vietnam, from which between a quarter to half of the returned troops had become addicted to heroin while in Vietnam. What was first feared as a returning epidemic of opiate addiction never materialized as the returned veterans simply kicked their habits as their environments changed.
Most recovery programs for opiate addiction has been maintenance based, such as the methadone programs or other such drugs used today. However, today it is recognized that other conditions may have influenced the use of the narcotic in the first place, such as early trauma, or a mental health issue and with proper psychological therapy opiate addicts can have their addictions expunged.
Finding the right care for your particular case of opiate addiction, or that of a loved one, can be best achieved with the help of experts in the field of addiction, such as you’ll find by calling Recovery Channel.