Opioids easily purchased online. The United States is in the middle of an opioid crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.
The first wave in the modern opioid epidemic began in the 1990s because of an increased amount of opioid prescriptions, but the opioid epidemic is not new.
“We talk about the opioid crisis all the time, but in reality, we’re in the midst of a drug epidemic that’s been going on for decades,” Community Medical Services CEO Nicholas Stavros said. “We’re in the midst of this drug crisis, it happens to be opioids, but the root cause of all of this is actually, I think, something very deep.”
The history of opioid addiction
Opium has been used in medical and recreational drugs since ancient times.
In the early 1800s, a German pharmacist named Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Serturner was the first to successfully isolate and extract “alkaloid” from tarry poppy seed juice.
He named the chemical morphine after the Greek God of Dreams, Morpheus.
On the other side of the country, the Civil War broke out and the country imported morphine for wounded soldiers.
An estimated 400,000 soldiers became addicted and stayed addicted after the end of the war. However, moving farther into the 19th Century, women began to make up the majority of morphine addictions.
In the 1890s, heroin as a morphine substitute started being used in medicine. In fact, German pharmaceutical company Bayer started using heroin as a cough suppressant for children suffering from coughs and colds.
“This is not a new problem,” Dignity Health’s Arizona General Hospital Chief Medical Officer Frederick Johnson, M.D., said. “In 1896 or 98 it was legal to give heroin… how long do you think it took to eliminate heroin as a pharmaceutical agent? 25 years. Almost 100 years later…we get back to the same problem, the cycle repeats itself over again.”
The modern opioid crisis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the current opioid crisis began in the 1990s when overdose deaths involving prescription opioids increased; the second wave began in 2010 when there was a rapid increase in overdose deaths involving heroin; and the third wave began in 2013 with significant increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
“Fentanyl, you see that 50 to 100 times more potent than the other medications. “You take that, and you start combining it with other drugs, other medications… and now things get really dicey for patients because the combinations of these medications actually cause death.” Opioids easily purchased online