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The first drug abuse crisis in America innocently surfaced during the Civil War. Hospitals gave injured soldiers unlimited amounts of morphine for their pain. Unaware of the possibility of addiction, opioids were even sold over the counter for sleep, pain, and grief. The country was mourning the loss of thousands of husbands and sons, and also financial despair. After the war, soldiers returned home, only to battle an unexpected opioid addiction.

In order to combat the morphine epidemic, a German drug company created a non-addictive substitute for morphine called heroin, and sold it to the U.S. It was quickly discovered to have the same addictive side effects. Then, cocaine was developed as the answer for heroin addiction. Cocaine proved to be useful for clearing nasal passages too, and was even declared the official remedy for hay fever. Beverage companies added it to soda and wine for its energizing effect. Unknowingly, America had created a new drug crisis.

The Great Depression came over the country causing a drop in heroin and cocaine use simply because it was not attainable.

History shows us a strategy to stop a drug’s momentum…

  1. Reduce the supply
  2. Enforce more government regulations
  3. Increase the price
  4. Create societal non acceptance


In the 1960’s and 1970’s heroin resurfaced due to soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. Heroin, readily available in Vietnam, eventually went away in the U.S. again from supply and demand. Cocaine also made a come back, mostly in the form of a rock like substance. Society dubbed users as “crack heads”. Crack cocaine had a repulsive reputation. This stigma alone diminished new users. Teenagers reported very low probability of ever trying the drug because of social acceptance.

In the 1990’s, painkiller prescriptions, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, gained popularity with physicians. Pain clinics became a trend among doctors as it was an extremely lucrative business. Doses were too high and quantities too large. Eventually, regulations and laws helped decrease prescription painkiller abuse, although it is still occurring at a high rate.

Today, heroin mixed with fentanyl is on the rise. It is cheap and deadly. Death is caused by slowing down breathing until it stops. Most users are unaware of the fatality of fentanyl.