In the coming weeks we are going to be putting together a multiple week series on the history of recovery in the United States. It will be on the Tuesday evening group, which by the way is one in which patients may bring family, support, etc… So you are all invited.
Our Suboxone doctors and treatment staff are happy to be on the cutting edge of treatment for addiction issues. However, not so long ago the opportunities available to people weren’t as varied and some were downright dangerous. We hope you’ll keep an eye on the group notifications in the lobby at Recovery Works NW and here on the site for when that group will begin.
So with that off we go.
Ancient History- Before America was even being considered, in fact as far back as 3400 BC people were using and abusing drugs. The Ancient Summerians called the poppy plant the “Joy Plant.” They passed along their knowledge of harvesting the plant for it’s euphoric effects and we were all off and running. In 1736 the British Empire was importing 2000 chests of Opium a year into China By 1839 the British Monarchy sent warships to China, because they had the audacity to try and stop the buying and selling of opium. This was the very first opium war. The United States was in it’s infancy and there was already a whole lot of drug use and abuse going on worldwide.
However, once the United States got really involved the whole game changed. Fast forward 175+ years and man have we made an impact.
Today- In 2004 the United States accounted for 4.6% of the worlds population. We’re a little bitty piece of the pie on that chart….but……we accounted for the consumption of 80% of the global opioid supply, 99% of all the hydrocodone (Vicodin to you and me) and the consumption of 66% of all illegal drugs.
Wrap your head around that for a minute. 99% of all the worlds Vicodin is prescribed, and consumed (legally or otherwise) by a sliver of the worlds population. We are #1 in a big, big way.
On average 10% (24% for heroin) of people who experiment with or begin use of mood and mind altering substances will cross the line into active addiction. A recent survey stated that 10% was costing the government 700 billion dollars a year to deal with. And that’s just direct treatment, incarceration, and medical treatment costs to the government. That doesn’t factor in lost time to employers, lack of employment, poor school performance, and a host of other things that factor into the overall costs of addiction.
Obviously the majority of people with addiction issues need help. Currently Addiction is recognized as a “relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences ( National Institute on Drug Abuse 2014)”
That piece on “despite harmful consequences” is why incarceration is almost completely useless as a deterrent to addiction. Treatment is what works. Through out the history of the U.S. we have had a number of treatment alternatives. Some successful. Some complete failures and even deadly. The way we look at people with addiction issues has started to come full circle. To see where we started we need to go back a couple centuries.
Early America- In 1803 a guy named Fredrich Serturner, in the U.K. was messing around in the lab and discovered Morphine. Fredrich was the equivalent of a pharmacy tech today. Once he figured out what he had, and what it did, he invited over some buddies and spent the weekend getting loaded (true story). Nothing much is said about Fredrich after that (he probably was the worlds first morphine addict), but his discovery made a big impact for good and bad.
European settlers and explorers brought morphine over with them(thanks Europe!) and we developed more than a taste for it. In fact early 19th century America was referred to as a “Dope Fiend Paradise (Prescription Painkillers: History, Pharmacology, and Treatment (The Library of Addictive Drugs) Marvin D Sepalla MD 2010).”
There were little to no regulations regarding the sale and use of drugs, specifically opiates, and other drugs like cocaine (Coca Cola. Again, true story) were all readily available. Books and pamphlets all espoused the amazing qualities of these drugs. Medications called “Patent medicine,” were widely available and could claim to do whatever they wanted to, and didn’t have any regulation about listing ingredients. A main one was opium. Laudanum was pretty much liquid opium and caused problems for a lot of people. Even Heroin was originally made and sold by Bayer. With all these drugs running rampant you can imagine people had issues and addiction was one. However, early on the addict or alcoholic was looked on with pity. To be sure they were seen as less than, but it wasn’t considered criminal. It was considered to be a case of poor unfortunates who had been taken over by drugs or alcohol. Most early treatment consisted of trying to help people “sweat it out,” religion or using one drug to treat another. Morphine used to be used to treat alcohol problems.
The shift begins. Early 1900’s. There have always been extremist. In the 1920’ and 1930’s a group proposed firing squads as a permanent solution to addiction. Sadly this would not be the last time this idea would come up. More on that decades down the road. In 1906 all those patent medicines were required to list what they had in them. This is about the time Coca Cola stopped using unprocessed cocoa leaves. In 1909 the first steps were taken to criminalize the use of narcotics. This led to decades of what would be a move from public opinion of one where addicts and alcoholics needed to be pitied to one where they need to be punished. Next week we delve into the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 and the temperance movement that led to prohibition.
Things have come a long way fortunately and our Suboxone Doctors at Recovery Works NW can help people with Opiate Dependence issues with kindness and compassion. Call us if you want to schedule an appointment for yourself or a loved one.