History of Heroin Research Paper

Total Length: 1101 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

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Heroin History -- San Diego

Brief Introduction to the History of Heroin

The drug known today as "heroin" is actually an opioid that was first synthesized into heroin in 1874. In fact heroin was also synthesized by the Bayer aspirin company in 1897 and sold as a legal pain-killer for years prior to its regulation in the United States. "The initial response to the launch of heroin by the Bayer Company was overwhelmingly positive," according to an article published in the Sunday Times (1998). The chemist for Bayer was Heinrich Dreser, and he wrote about heroin in several medical journals, and additional studies "…endorsed the view that heroin could be effective in treating asthma, bronchitis, phthisis and tuberculosis" (Sunday Times, p. 2).

By the year 1899 Bayer was making about "…a ton of heroin a year," and the company exported its brand of heroin to 23 countries; but the citizens most willing to buy and use Bayer's heroin were those in the United States (Sunday Times, p. 4). There were heroin cough drops, heroin tablets, "water-soluble heroin salts" and even heroin elixir in a glycerin solution. The American Medical Association actually gave its endorsement of Bayer's heroin in 1906, albeit the AMA warned that it was potentially habit-forming. Bayer ceased production of heroin in 1913, because there had been "an explosion of heroin-related admissions at New York and Philadelphia hospitals" (Sunday Times, p. 5).

The NIDA International Program data (Question 2) shows that by 1900, up to 300,000 Americans (including some in San Diego and elsewhere in Southern California) were "addicted to opiates," including heroin.
Immigrants were drawn to opioid addiction between 1910 and 1950, the NIDA data reflects. Those most easily addicted to heroin were Latino immigrants (many from Mexico that looked for work and ended up settling in San Diego and Southern California), young people, those who were "unmarried, poor, primarily male," and of ethnic minorities. Heroin was made an official controlled substance in 1912, and between 1924 and 1960, the U.S. began implementing "stiffer narcotics policies" and in 1962 the White House Conference on Narcotic Drug Abuse began advocating for "…more flexible sentencing, wider latitude in medical treatment, and more emphasis on rehabilitation and research" (NIDA Question 3).

When did Heroin use begin in San Diego County?

That is an impossible question to answer. One can safely assume that during the time that heroin was a legal drug -- that a person could buy without a prescription for about $5.00 a bottle -- there were users in San Diego. Facts related to the use of heroin through history in San Diego were not available for this paper. Contact with the Sheriff's office, the Drug Enforcement Agency's bureau in San Diego, and other agencies were not successful in terms of finding information leading to the history of heroin use in San Diego.

However, it is known that a subculture of Chicanos in Southern California (including San Diego) became addicted to heroin in the 1960s and 1970s. A scholarly article in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse (Jorquez, 1984) reports on the life history studies of 18 Southern California "ex-tecatos" ("tecato" is Spanish for Chicano heroin.....

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