Opium cultivation dates to 3400 B.C. According to the University of Arizona, it was initially used by Egyptians and Persians, but later spread to Europe, India, and China. In the 18th, century, physicians in the United States used opium for pain relief from cancer, tetanus, menstrual cycle and childbirth. It wasn’t until the end of the 18th century that some physicians started to recognize the addictive properties of opium. In 1805, morphine and codeine were separated from opium and morphine was used to treat opium addiction since its addictive properties were unknown at the time. Morphine became abused more over time.
In 1874, heroin was created by an English chemist, but was not commercially produced until 1898 by the Bayer Pharmaceutical Company. The National Library of Medicine states that beginning clinical trials of heroin were so promising that “it was considered a wonder drug”. Over time, however, it was found that patients could develop a tolerance to the drug and later, an addiction. By early 1910, people addicted to morphine found out about the euphoric effects of heroin by injecting the drug intravenously. It was then classified as a narcotic drug and abuse spread quickly.
Restrictions were then placed on the production and distribution of heroin, and there was a major decrease of consumption after 1931. Due to the shortage, it was during this time that some people began the illicit production and trafficking of heroin. Drug trafficking involves the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sale of substances that are subject to prohibition laws. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime claims that “at current levels, world heroin consumption (340 tons) and seizures represent an annual flow of 430-450 tons of heroin into the global heroin market”.
As heroin has become more accessible through trafficking, people are becoming more and more at risk for overdose, HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, bacterial infections of the skin, bloodstream, and heart, and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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