Jan 12, 2018 in Research

The History of Drug Abuse in America

The issue of drugs in the United States of America has its own long history. Drug abuse has been a major social issue that American society has to solve for more than two centuries. Surprisingly, doctors had introduced some of the drugs as over-the-counter and prescription of drugs had been made legal.

Christopher Columbus first meeting with the natives of the ‘New World’ led to his encounter with tobacco that he was given as gifts which the Indians happily presented to the European visitors. Columbus did not know what to do with them but carried it with him. Soon, the travelers that were with him knew the pleasure of smoking and brought the behavior with them to Europe (Goode, 2007).

One of the ancient drugs in the history of America is Marijuana that was planted by Jamestown settlers in the 1660s. This was a key revenue source for the US before the Civil War as its plantations flourished in the nineteenth century. It was used as a therapeutic medication from 1850 to 1937 and people could purchase it over the counter. It became illegal in 1937. The other drug that is one of the oldest and popular drugs in US is Cocaine. It was popular in Europe before it came to America. The Coca Cola Company introduced the drug into the US in the year of 1886 produced from cola leaves. The same year the Surgeon General of US army endorsed the medical use of the drug and unregulated medicinal tonics of the drug were sold over the next few decades. This was widely shown in Hollywood movies. It became illegal in 1914 (Lyman, 2006).

The use of heroin, in the form of opiate morphine, was popular in the US through the 19th century especially among middle class and upper class women who used it as prescriptions to cure female problems. Heroine was created in 1803 and was widely used in the Civil war as a painkiller that led to its abuse and further addiction. The second addiction began in 1930s through the Harlem, the Beatnik subculture and in the period of the Vietnam War. The use of heroine  significantly had risen in the 1990s (Lyman, 2006).

The other drugs that have widely been used in America are LSD and Methamphetamine. The intoxicant amphetamine originally became widespread in the medical arena of the US, in the 1920s. It was as a stimulant for the central nervous system (CNS), expanding nasal passageways and raising blood pressure. The abuse of amphetamines became rampant in the 1930s after it was legally allowed for over-the-counter sales. In addition, it was advertised as Benzedrine. Injection of amphetamines started in the 1960s and influenced the start of secretive laboratories that were manned by criminal motorcycle groups. Nevertheless, through the 1970s, the use of the drug started declining because of the consciousness of its danger. The use of LSD in US was of great amount in 1950s and 1960s because mental health doctors and research participants distributed it to friends. It was heightened in the mid and late 1960s during the hippies and reemerged in 1990s because of the rave of subcultures (Robins, 2007).

The type of drug use has fluctuated in the United States of America as seen above over the past 100 hundred years. The main causes of the rise of drug abuse and addiction in US has been tied to issues of the distribution of the drugs over the counter and its association with certain groups. The introduction and implementation of federal and state laws limited or prohibited specific drugs and narcotic drug use and led to the reduction of the use of the drugs. However, when the regulation was implemented on a certain drug, another drug became popular and formed a trend of abuse before the regulation was effected (Goode, 2007).

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