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Early Days of Heroin

Heroin wasn’t invented during the modern day crisis. In fact, in its early days, heroin was known as a simple cough suppressant and a non-addictive morphine substitute. The early days of heroin are rather insane to think about today. We know that heroin is one of the most addictive drugs and is one of the biggest problems in the U.S. Now, there are about 669,000 people that used heroin in the past year, according to the 2012 survey by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Heroin was first created in 1874 by an English chemist working at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School. After being tested on animals, very little was done with the chemical. It was eventually abandoned until 1897 when it was rediscovered by a German chemist. Felix Hoffman created the drug for Bayer, a German pharmaceutical Company. The drug ran through the tests on animals and the potential was noticed.

When heroin was created, there was a massive morphine problem in the U.S. It stemmed from the Civil War, which ended in 1865. There was also lots of casual and medical opium use. In a casual sense, opium could be purchased over the counter much like aspirin today. Even children could possess opium and opioid products. Opium was quite commonly used in childbirth, leading to a lot of women becoming addicted. During this time in the 19th century, addiction wasn’t commonly studied like it is today.

This led to people needing an alternative to opium. Heroin was marketed as a possible solution. Named after the word heroic, heroin was first marketed as a fantastic cough suppressant and an alternative to opium and morphine. It wasn’t directly marketed to the population, but to physicians who could prescribe it. Much like drugs like OxyContin were by Purdue Pharma today. In fact, over-prescribing of medical opioids has yet again led to heroin abuse around the country.