In When Good Drugs Get a Bad Reputation Part I, we discussed how marijuana – thought by some to be a useful drug with a number of medical and spiritual properties – has been demonized by the fact that so many people abuse the drug illicitly. In fact, this is a regular occurrence with chemical substances throughout mankind’s history: drugs developed for scientific, medical or healing purposes are often diverted by the public for recreational use and abuse. Unfortunately, when abused, these drugs can lead to significant substance abuse problems and outright addiction, including all the depravity and risks associated with it. In this installment of When Good Drugs Get a Bad Reputation, we’ll examine how the highly useful drug opium has suffered a major setback in the public view as a result of illicit use of the drug and the resulting powerful addictions it causes.Opium is a drug that is derived from the unripe pods of the poppy plant. It has been used for thousands of years – starting in Neolithic times and progressing to modern times. This includes extensive use by the Greeks and Romans in surgery and medicine. In fact, opium was even reportedly used by the ancient Sumerians, who claimed it could be administered for virtually every purpose from spiritual enlightenment to pain management. (1)
However, as long as there has been opium there have been public health issues related to it. In fact, in the mid 1800’s Great Britain and China fought two bloody wars over the drug. In each of them, China was attempting to address the tens of thousands of addicted individuals in the land, while Britain sought to enforce the trade in the drug.
Britain of course won both of the Opium Wars and over the next century the drug would be developed into some of the world’s most useful medications. This is true of the pain management family of drugs, as well as the development of a number of successful addiction treatment drugs such as Methadone and Suboxone. Unfortunately, these developments also led to the creation of morphine and later heroin – two of the most addictive substances known to man. But up until recently, most people did not have a negative view of the drug itself, but rather a negative view of the people who abused it.
Today some of the most widely used drugs in the world are opiates. In the United States the most commonly abused opiates are also some of the most useful drugs and include morphine, oxycodone, Vicodin, codeine, and many others. All of these drugs have distinct medical uses related to pain relief and pain management – especially after a traumatic injury or surgery. Unfortunately, when abused they also create a euphoric “high” that drug seekers value greatly.
Prescription medicine abuse is one of the fastest growing types of drug use in America, with opiates making up the majority of these substances. Because of this misuse these practical and sometimes life-saving drugs are now associated with drug abuse and addiction – in some cases to the point where people who legitimately need them are not able to get them. But because of the highly addictive nature of these drugs, it’s also possible to become hooked while on a medically-monitored pain management program, in which case a specialized detox program may be warranted.
In When Good Drugs Get a Bad Reputation Part III, we’ll discuss one more substance that has gotten a seriously bad reputation because of the thousands of people that abuse it each year. However, it’s probably not any drug you’re thinking, so be sure to catch the next article in this installment.
But if you’re struggling with a drug problem and you need help right now – don’t wait. Pick up the phone. It doesn’t matter what time of day or night it is or where you are located – if you call the number at the top of your screen you can get help right now. The call is free, and it’s completely confidential. Why wait any longer?
(1) Wikipedia Entry for Opium