Many are unaware that heroin was at one time perfectly legal. Our knowledge of dangerous narcotics seems common sense, but there was a long learning curve before it became apparent that some of these drugs were unmanageable.
What is Heroin?
A product of opium, one of the oldest used painkillers in the world, heroin first synthesized in 1874. The powerful narcotic has been associated with prescription painkillers ever since it was included in cough syrups in the early 1900s. The consequences of our ignorance at this time, the US still deals with today—and struggles hard. By 1914, the year The Harrison Narcotics Act was passed to outlaw the manufacture and possession of heroin, and 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.
Since its introduction, the war on drugs substance abuse rates have only gotten worse, largely due to legal medications that contain oxycodone and hydrocodone becoming more common place. (Users often turn to heroin for its lower cost and higher availability.) Sociological factors have also played a role in heroin abuse rates: post-invasion Afghanistan has become the greatest heroin supplier on the planet; by 2002, they accounted for 95 percent of global import, with the United States taking a hard hit.
In 2003, the National Drug Intelligence Center cited New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts as the biggest heroin states. By 2013, the demographic of users had gotten considerably younger, the highest rates being 18-44, whereas in 2000 it was 18-44. In 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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