The Rise of Heroin
Heroin is one of the most well-known addiction drugs in the Western world and often conjures up retro stereotypes of dirty, unwashed needle freaks lying a dirty mattress in some abandoned building. Let’s veer away from the Hollywood/media version of Heroin addiction and take a look at some of the facts and history of the chemical compound known as Heroin.
It all starts with the poppy flower, which produces the compound opium. Opium has been used around the world for centuries for medicine (the only known painkiller for most of history) and recreation. The Opium Poppy is responsible for a great number of legal narcotics in medicinal use today.
Heroin itself was first created in a British lab in 1874 and went mainstream in 1898 when the German pharmaceutical company Bayer began marketing it as a non-addictive painkiller and cough medicine for children. (Yes, you read that right.) The familiar dishonesty displayed by Eli Lilly, Purdue Pharma, and other big pharmaceutical drug companies today played a role in Bayer’s early marketing of heroin. They deliberately hid the fact that when metabolized by the liver, heroin became morphine which is highly addictive. Much like the drug companies hocking pills to children for bogus psychiatric “disorders” today, Bayer saw no problem selling heroin to kids for a buck.
Heroin remained available to the masses until 1914 when the substance was controlled by a tax levy. This did little to dissuade “doctors” from prescribing it in mass to patients who had no way of knowing how desperately addicted they were becoming. In 1924 the US finally banned the drug entirely.
Today, about 90% of the world’s opium comes from Afghanistan. While Mexico and Columbia produce less than 4% of the world’s supply, they account for 30-40% of the heroin that comes into the United
States. Domestic sales of heroin are much less profitable for dealers than it was in the 70s and 80s when a dealer could dilute his supply with additives and make more money. Today, heroin dealers have a new major competitor that has significantly reduced the profit of selling heroin on the street. The newcomer: OxyContin sold in drug stores and legally prescribed like candy by doctors across the nation.
OxyContin is a far bigger issue than raw heroin. It’s just as effective, just as addictive, and cheaper. To top it off, OxyContin is usually covered by medical insurance. While heroin is still dangerous and a significant problem on the street, the far bigger danger to public health and addiction in today’s America is the OxyContin distributed at enormous profits by the biggest corporate drug dealers in history, the Big Pharmaceutical companies.