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America’s First Opioid Crisis

America’s First Opioid Crisis

Remembering America’s First Opioid Crisis

Horror stories about the opioid epidemic replay on the news and the number of people abusing prescription pills seems to only be increasing. While many fear what they believe to be uncharted territory, you would be surprised to find that our country has been here before.

Just like Philadelphia’s rich history with the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, the city also has a long-standing history of opium use. At Banyan Philadelphia, we have seen the devastating effects of the Pennsylvania opioid epidemic, but we also know that it is not the first opioid crisis our state and city have faced.

The First Opioid Epidemic in The United States

Although everyone is preoccupied by the current opioid epidemic, the first opioid crisis in our country took place in the 1800s. Just like how the settlers came to America on ships, opium was probably right there too. Long used as a way to relieve pain, opium and opium products were brought to the New World just like other medicines, crops, and goods. At the time, there was no stigma behind using such drugs and little restrictions. Because people were unaware of the side effects, opium was mixed in various products and used to treat ailments ranging from diarrhea to putting children to sleep. Laudanum, in particular, was a popular opiate of the time. With such careless use of the opium products, the opioid use in the United States quickly gained traction. At first, it is believed that women turned to laudanum because alcohol was not readily available. Often, an addiction developed. The drug also gained popularity with artists as it became rumored that laudanum helped inspire Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” and Elizabeth Barrett Browning used it on a regular basis.1 Although opium and opiates were widely used since the founding of the country, it wasn’t until after the Civil War that the first opioid crisis in the United States began. With many still in distress from the war, soldiers and civilians alike became addicted to opiates after using it to relieve their physical and emotional pain. This resulted in thousands of people overdosing on the drugs, either on purpose or by mistake, with government entities scrambling to find solutions.2

America’s First Opioid Crisis Compared to Today

In many ways today’s epidemic is like déjà vu to the first opioid problem this country faced. As a Philly opioid addiction treatment center, we have also noticed an increase in the number of people abusing these substances and becoming addicted. The number of drug overdose deaths in the United States has increased as well with a 9.6% spike in the span of one year, 67.8% of which were overdoses involving an opioid of some kind in 2017.3 With such alarming numbers, state, local, and federal governments are doing their best to combat these issues. Pennsylvania , in particular, is trying to open safe injection sites and the federal government has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

Whether opioids or meth, do not let drugs or alcohol control your life or the life of your loved one. Our addiction treatment center in Philadelphia can help. Take that first step toward a happier and healthier life free from drugs or alcohol. Learn more about our facility and the various treatment programs we offer, call us today at 888-280-4763.

To learn more about our programs at Banyan Philadelphia and how we may be able to help you or your loved one, reach out to us today at 888-280-4763.

Sources & References:

  1. Mental Floss - The Lure of Laudanum, the Victorians' Favorite Drug
  2. AP News - ‘The laudanum evil’: Maryland’s 19th century opiate epidemic
  3. CDC - Drug Overdose Deaths

Photo Credit: Louis Philippe Lessard. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.