The History of Heroin in America

america opiates heroin

Many people in the USA are unaware that heroin, perhaps the most infamous drug of our time, was ever legal in their country. The dangers of narcotics may seem like common sense, but for a while, heroin was considered manageable, much like other risky prescription drugs currently on the market. Heroin, one of the oldest used painkillers in the world, was first synthesized from opium, a part of the poppy plant, in 1874. It’s been associated with painkillers since the early 1900s, when it was used in cough syrups.


Even to this day–perhaps more than ever–the US still struggles with the consequences of its past ignorance concerning opiates. By 1914, the year The Harrison Narcotics Act was passed to outlaw the manufacture and possession of heroin; 57 years later the Nixon Administration launched the War on Drugs. By 2015, it would be declared a failure by the majority of policymakers, left and right alike, but long before then, even, the pandemic had begun.

Opiate Use

Much thanks to oxycodone and hydrocodone–or, more specifically, the companies that distributed them irresponsibly in the 90s–opiate abuse has skyrocketed in the last twenty years. After becomed a role: post-invasion Afghanistan, specifically, has become the greatest heroin supplier on the planet, accounted for 95 percent of global import by 2002, with the United States taking a hard hit.

Heroin States

In 2013, the National Drug Intelligence Center announced what they believed to be the biggest “heroin states”: New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. They also shared some disturbing findings about the demographics of users: they were getting a lot younger. For whatever reason, it’s become a lot more commonplace to snort or smoke heroin. Without the stigma of the needle, more and more young people are open to trying heroin. By 2014, there were 8000 heroin-related deaths—2000 higher than in 2012.

Today, overdose rates continue to rise for men and women of every race and are garnering more and more press coverage as demographics shift to become less stigmatized and more often sympathized to the middle class.


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