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History of Opium

Archeologists estimate that the opium poppy plant, Papaver somniferum, has been grown and cultivated for as many as six thousand years. Many historians agree that opium poppies were originally grown in the Mediterranean near Turkey, Italy, and southern France, and then cultivation spread quickly around the world. Several successful ancient societies (including the Greek, Roman, Persian, Sumerian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Minoan and Arab Empires) used opium poppies as a source of edible oil and eventually as a medicine for pain relief and various other ailments.

In the seventh century, opium became popular in the Islamic world for its medicinal qualities. Opium was often used as a treatment for pain relief. Soon, the Islamic people learned that opium could be smoked, and opium abuse quickly began to be an issue in Islamic society.

As travel by ship became more common, European traders realized that opium was very profitable. Soon opium abuse was common throughout the entire world. China was particularly affected by opium abuse and addiction.

Great Britain began delivering large quantities of opium to China in the eighteenth century, which led to the famous Opium Wars in 1839 and 1858. After the Opium Wars, more than 25% of China’s male population was actively addicted to opium. It took decades for Chinese society, culture, and family structure to recover from the devastating effects of opium abuse.

In the US, opium was used as a method of pain control. Doctors observed that opium was useful for treating pain initially, but soon it became seriously addictive and led to deadly consequences. Because of the hazards of opium use, doctors developed morphine and other opioid drugs that were more controlled than raw opium. These new opioid drugs were successful because they could be given in measured doses, but they continued to be addictive and prone to abuse. One new opioid drug, morphine, was created in 1803 and was at first believed to be a medical miracle. However, morphine and other opioid drugs have proven to be as much, or more, of an addiction problem as raw opium.

In 1895, the most deadly form of opium, heroin, was ironically first sold by the Bayer Company as a treatment for morphine addiction. By the early 1900s, heroin was an addiction epidemic in the United States.

Modern Opium Use

In North America, opium is a serious public health issue. It is estimated that more than 600,000 people in the US suffer from opium dependency. Opium use has been linked with violence, criminal activity and family dysfunction. Many studies show that opium addictions are often supported by illegal means and cost the average user more than $150 a day.

Opioid addiction can lead to the contraction of infectious diseases (often Hepatitis C and HIV), loss of functioning, overdose, brain damage, crime (in order to support the addiction) and domestic violence. As of 2010, opium has been largely produced in Afghanistan, and political unrest has contributed to the production of opium more than tripling since 2001.

Opium Addiction Help

If you or a loved one is suffering from an opium addiction, please call our toll-free 24 hour helpline. Our trained counselors are available 24-hours a day and can help you learn more about addiction, assist with interventions or help you get the assistance you need. Please don’t hesitate. Call today.