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The Opiate Epidemic

By Staff | Feb 21, 2020

I was listening to the radio on my way top work this past Tuesday when a report came on regarding Opium use and availability on the streets in our State. Basically, it came down to a synthetic opioid that is seven to ten times more powerful than morphine and is highly addictive.

I did some research and the following are excerpts of a report by J.M. Hull titled, “The Opium Habit [in Iowa].

“I am inclined to believe it contains some facts regarding this rapidly increasing evil that cannot fail to astonish even those who are well informed, and far more those who have given the subject little or no attention. Opium is today a greater curse than alcohol, and justly claims a larger number of helpless victims, which have not come from the ranks of reckless men and fallen women, but the majority of them are to be found among the educated and most honored and useful members of society

The habit in a vast majority of cases is first formed by the unpardonable carelessness of physicians, who are often too fond of using the little syringe, or of relieving every ache and pain by the administration of an opiate. Stupid, indeed, must that patient be, who having been fifty or one hundred times relieved of neuralgia, sciatica or rheumatism, does not learn better than to pay a dollar or two for what he can buy at any drug store for a nickel; or if used hypodermically, he procures an instrument, and continues its use until he finds himself a member of that vast army of unfortunate habitus. Too soon, and yet too late, they find their friendly drug has woven its net about them, until at the first warnings of danger they undertake to break the cords, but find them too strong for human hands. It is at this time that many escapes are made, and in most cases will be made if made at all. The most resolute, and those who are fortunate enough to discover their danger in time, may by a powerful effort of the will make good their escape; but those who fail then, to try again at another time, or under more favorable circumstances, seldom if ever succeed by their own efforts, and if cured at all, the aid must come from some one skilled in the treatment of the habit, which I am happy to say is beginning to receive some attention from the medical profession. Why it comes so late I cannot say, but the way these poor victims are fleeced by advertising quacks is pitiable, indeed. No better proof can be given of the rapid increase of this evil than the number of advertisers who claim to cure the habit. So common are they that one or more may be seen in nearly all the papers and journals of the country. I am strongly of the opinion that if done at all it must be done at least in part by legislation. Physicians must be taught better than to use the drug in such a manner as to cause the habit to be formed; and finally the masses must be instructed with regard to the danger of a prolonged use of opiates and especially the use of the hypodermic syringe.”

This article was based on a Third Biennial Report of the Iowa State Board of Health (Des Moines: George E Roberts, 1885).

Even then, it was becoming obvious that opium was becoming a problem. But you could open any catalog or walk into any mercantile and find products containing opium. So did we create this epidemic ourselves or could it have been avoided when it was first discovered to be an addiction? Just some food for thought.