The History of Opiates
The early history of Opiates
The first opiates are believed to have been cultivated during the Neolithic period in what is now known as Switzerland. The settlements in this area cultivated Papaver -which was a source of poppy seeds. Many historians agree that these early individuals discovered the narcotic effect of the poppy plant -and therefore were the first users of opiates.
The first written mention of opiates is believed to have come from third-century B.C. Greek culture and the writings of philosopher Theopphrastus. By this time, people had discovered that drying the poppy plant’s extracted fluid created a highly powerful drug -which would become known as opium.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Arabic traders brought opium to the Far East. From there, opium made its way to Europe where it would be used not only as a curative for a wide variety of illnesses and psychological problems.
Opiate use in modern medicine
Within opium lie several key substances, one of which was isolated by scientist Friedrich Serturner in 1806. He named the element morphine, after the Greek god Morpheus. Later, Codeine and papaverine were also isolated by trailblazing scientist of that century. Morphine, codeine and papaverine replaced pure opium as the drug of choice for use in medicine. The doctors of the era used them all as painkillers and more. When the hypodermic needle was invented in the middle of the century, morphine was administered as a painkiller commonly throughout Europe.
The 19th century saw a rapid rise in opiate use in the United States. Immigrants from China -who came to work predominantly on the country’s new railroad system -brought opium with them when they arrived. Also, those suffering from serious battle injuries during and after the Civil War were given opium with a needle to ease their pain. Ironically, many doctors during this period actually prescribed morphine as a remedy for opium addiction!
The end of the 19th Century found the United States focused on ending the non-medicinal use of opium. The U.S. also placed their efforts on prohibiting opium use and sales in China. The U.S. wanted a strong trade partner in China -and did not want the country brought down from within by this insidious drug.
Opium in the 20th century and beyond
The first international event to address the issue, The International Opium Conference was held in 1909 and paved the way for several world-meetings to come in the following years. During the course of these historic gatherings, the world’s major powers, including England, Germany, The United States and others discussed how to limit the use, production and trade of opium.
Several important legislations were put into play during this time, but the problem was that not every country wanted to ratify them. Each country had its own interests to look out for and as such a consensus was hard to reach.
In fact, was not until after two World Wars, in 1960 that the United Nations, who had been tasked with responsibility of policing opium and dangerous narcotics worldwide, created the U.N. Commission of Narcotic Drugs, which included 40 major countries. The commission created the Single Convention -which replaced all the various treaties (signed or unsigned) that had come before it during the first half of the century.
This overarching convention stated that all member countries of the United Nations must do everything in their power to restrict the use of narcotics to scientific and medicinal purposes. To violate this agreement is an offense that can be punished from within the United Nation’s governing body.
The staff of trained professionals at Michael’s House understands the history of opiates -but more importantly, knows the emotional and psychological conditions caused by opiate addiction. Michael’s House is standing by, waiting to help you or someone you love. Call us today at 1-877-345-8494 .