The majority of heroin is produced in Southeast Asia and Latin America, where opium poppies grow naturally. As early as the 6th and 7th centuries, opium was used for its medicinal properties. Around the time of World War II, opium was first reduced to morphine – a derivative at least 10 times more potent – by a German scientist. Since morphine was first introduced to society, opiate addiction has been a major, ongoing issue. It has only become worse now that heroin controls the illicit opioid market.
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How Was Heroin Introduced into Society?
Eventually, heroin was uncovered as a result of the acetylation of morphine. Pharmacists found that heroin was far more powerful (and thus, more effective) than morphine, and The Bayer Company began mass production of the drug for general consumption in the late 1890s. Like many other now-illicit substances, heroin was referred to as a “wonder drug” when it first hit the market. Those who were treated with the drug quickly developed physical dependencies, and it became clear that the “wonder drug” had some seriously negative side effects. Around 1910, patients who were using heroin found that its effects were increased when it was used intravenously. After this discovery, heroin abuse spread rapidly.
Medical professionals began to grow concerned, seeing as patients were developing high tolerances and obvious addictions to the drug. Restrictions on distribution and use were put into place, and a nationwide ban on production was also proposed. After the regulations were put into place, sometime around 1930, use decreased significantly.
Of course, those who had developed dependencies contributed to nationwide demand, and illicit manufacturing operations began to take place. Heroin was produced in foreign countries and trafficked overseas. Many believe that the first and only heroin epidemic in the United States began in the late 1990s. In truth, there have been two major heroin epidemics – the first beginning in the late 1960s. This epidemic subsided when the cost of heroin skyrocketed, and the purity levels sharply declined.
Where is Most of the Heroin Grown?
Today, the majority of heroin in circulation is imported from Mexico, Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, and Latin America. The imported heroin is usually sold in one of two forms: as a white or brown powder, or as a sticky, dark substance known as “black tar” heroin. Once it makes its way into the U.S., heroin is usually cut with other substances by low-level dealers, hoping to make an additional profit. Up until recently common substances used for cutting heroin included baking powder, laxatives, powdered milk, talcum powder, and cornstarch. Nowadays, heroin is frequently cut with fentanyl – a highly potent opioid narcotic, one up to 100 times more powerful than its counterpart. Fentanyl is responsible for thousands of overdose-related deaths annually and contributes greatly to the current heroin epidemic.
A Heroin-Like Prescription Copycat
After the first government crackdown on heroin, major pharmaceutical companies began manufacturing medications that resembled heroin in some regards – opioid painkillers. Big Pharma worked hard to convince medical professionals that the newly introduced painkillers were essentially harmless, and they began to be prescribed for various ailments in mass quantities.
It was soon discovered, however, that prescription painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone were just as addictive as their opioid predecessor. As addiction rates began to climb once again, the government issued another crackdown on distribution. This time, those that had developed opioid dependencies sought out heroin, which was a far less expensive and more accessible alternative.
We are Here to Help with Opioid Addiction
In 2017, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported roughly 70,200 drug-related overdose deaths. As this number continues to climb, it has become clear that the only real solution is the increased availability of affordable and successful treatment. We at Garden State Treatment Center have extensive experience working closely with heroin addicts, and we are confident that our comprehensive recovery program will work for anyone who is willing to put in the work.