Drug Abuse and Useby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Trace the history of drug abuse and use.
The history of drugs is long and varied depending on geography, culture, and trade.
Drug use and abuse has been found in all inhabited continents of the world. The use of drugs can be traced back to Sumer around 3,500 B.C. Since then it has been widely used for medicinal purposes as well as "getting high".
Drugs have been around nearly since the beginning of time, as far back as to when, ".the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam."1 That was a joke, of course, but medicinal drugs have been around for centuries. These medicines were taken from nature and used wisely to heal and help. However, the drugs2 soon came to be abused. Men became addicted to these substances that would allow them to mentally escape from reality, and this is when drug use transforms itself into drug abuse. So, drug use and abuse essentially grew together. This growth began in Sumer and Ancient Egypt and continued with widespread use in China and addiction in the Americas. It then progressed to Europe, and now escalates with the numerous drugs being made available to all citizens of the world. The history of drugs is long and varied depending on geography, culture, and trade. How did drug availability, necessity, and addiction create the pharmacy of lust, conceit, and greed that breeds on today's Internet?
The ancient civilization of Sumer in Mesopotamia is one of the oldest in history. It began ca. 3500 B.C., relatively shortly after the scattering at the Tower of Babel. There is clear evidence that plants were used as medicinal drugs there3. In addition, some evidence exists of Sumerians using opium4. Not long after, a society sprang up in Egypt. Recently, scientists began to test Ancient Egyptian mummies for drugs in their system. One scientist, Svetlana Balabanova, discovered that the mummies contained traces of cocaine5. This was incredibly shocking because cocaine comes from plants in the Americas! Even so, Balabanova claimed that cocaine addiction was just as prominent then as it is today6. Unsurprisingly, Balabanova's views are widely debated among scientists. However, even if Ancient Egyptians did not use cocaine, they certainly used opium, because the drug is represented on the tombs as something the dead should carry into their afterlife7. As opium was used in the earliest civilizations, so it came to be infamously widespread elsewhere.
"Elsewhere", of course, is China. Poppy seeds, where opium comes from, and opium itself were introduced to China sometime near 700 A.D. It most likely came from the Middle East and India by the Silk Road. However, for a very long time it was used only for medicinal purposes8. It was not until the 17th century that Dutch explorers introduced opium in its more common, addictive form. As is well-known, the Chinese got hooked. By 1729, when the first prohibitive decree was drawn up, the Portuguese were importing over 200,000 pounds of opium a year. Alas, prohibitions could not keep the opium-importing business from booming. By the beginning of the 19th century, 2,670 tons were being imported by various nations, 1,000 of them coming from the East India Company9. Of course, this eventually led to a struggle in the mid-1800's known as the Opium Wars. After China's loss in the Wars, opium importation increased even more! Now 5,000 tons were being brought in every year. Even though it was illegal, opium addiction ravished the Chinese people. Meanwhile, other parts of the world were being drawn into opium and other drugs.
In the United States of America, opium dens were prominent in San Francisco. The opium was largely concentrated in Chinatown because it was brought over to America by Chinese immigrants. Though its use in China was outlawed, opium did not become illegal in the USA until the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act in 1914. Actually, though, a different drug was much more prominent in the United States around this time. Morphine was widely used as a painkiller, but those who were treated with it often developed an addiction. After the Civil War in 1861-1865, many soldiers became addicted because their battle wounds were treated with morphine. Most of these soldiers were from the North because the South could not afford the painkilling drug. Very interestingly, the majority of morphine addicts were middle-aged white women in the cities10. These women were not soldiers, so how can this fact be explained? The answer is that medicines did not have patents at the turn of the 20th century. Therefore, housewives would go down to the general pharmacy and buy any medicine and it would most likely be made up of fifty-percent morphine! ".there were far more people addicted to drugs in [the USA] than there are today.there were between two and five percent of the entire adult population of the United States addicted to drugs in 1900."11 Interestingly, though, the drug problem existed in the Americas long before it arrived in the United States.
Native Indians in what are now Mexico and Peru discovered many natural resources that could be used as hallucinatory drugs. The favorite of these tribes was mushrooms, which they would use for mind-altering in their worship services, while another common hallucinogenic was a cactus. In addition, Andean Indians were the first to discover cocaine. Chiefs quickly realized they could use this to their advantage. Because of the high altitudes, messengers needed a little something to keep them going while they ran through the mountains. The chiefs began to give them cocaine, and obviously the messengers became addicts. Messengers would now run endless miles to get a fix, so the chiefs received their messages more quickly12. Another drug discovered in the Andean mountains was quinine, taken from the Cinchona tree13. Europeans unsuccessfully attempted to take the tree over to their land. In any case, drugs took grip of Europe as well.
Marijuana first came to France through its soldiers returning from Egypt. The great thinkers of France were very fascinated with this new drug, even to the point of establishing a club. In 1841, a man named Jacques Joseph Moreau began to use marijuana medically14. Then, in the middle of the nineteenth century, a French chemist named Angelo Mariani introduced cocaine to Europe. He would put the cocaine in wine and tea. For this he was given a special recognition by the Pope15. Sigmund Freud famously tried the drug in 1884 and found it to be "magical". For a while he encouraged many people to try it and even recommended it to treat morphine addiction. However, he reneged on his endorsement after watching the behavior of a friend under the influence16. In 1898, German drug company Bayer invented heroin. By then, many men and women all over the world were addicted to various drugs. Unfortunately, the problem still exists today.
There are many popular drugs that are highly advertised. You may not know what Adipex, Bontril, Carisoprodol (Soma), Didrex, ...Fioricet... the alphabet list goes on and on. A new on line pharmacy seems to gain the endorsement by some "physician" every day. Obviously, many more drugs exist now than ever before. In addition to the drugs already mentioned, amphetamines, LSD, acid, ecstasy and countless other steroids, narcotics, stimulants, depressants, and inhalants are used and abused. Some people even sniff glue, lighter fluid, and markers in order to stimulate a high! There is a huge market of unregulated "naturopathic" drugs which claim users can lose body fat and wrinkles, increase the size of sexual organs, and live longer. Unsubstantiated claims gain billions of dollars in an industry which benefits from the vanity of human nature. Usually these packaged placebos do no physical harm other than to decrease the thickness of one's wallet. However, several have been shown to have dangerous side effects such as blindness caused by the drug Viagra.
Such widespread use has forced governments to enact laws to ban these substances, in addition to forming anti-drug agencies. The first step was when the USA enacted the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act to state which drugs were addicting, as well as which needed prescriptions to be bought. Pharmacies were forced to accurately label medicines containing opium as well as other drugs. Beginning in the 1930s, drug education in public schools was required. Much more has been done to combat drug addiction, including rehabilitation clinics, but the predicament continues to grow. Currently, the most popular drug is undoubtedly marijuana- in America as well as around the globe. Although marijuana use is illegal, many laws are being repealed nationally and internationally, allowing people of all ages to enter this mind-altering state.
Cocaine based drugs are possibly the most highly addictive drugs in the world. Cocaine is a white powder refined from a cocoa plant found in South America. Usually cocaine is put on a smooth surface like that of glass and cut up with a razor blade, and then sniffed through the nose using some sort of straw causing it to be easily absorbed through the lining of the nose. Eventually, this use ruptures holes in the nasal septum. When cocaine is smoked, by mixing it with sodium hydroxide and some other poisons, it is called “crack”. Although sniffed cocaine will usually wear off in about and hour, intensely concentrated crack smoke absorbed through the lungs slams into the brain in less than ten seconds and wears off in a few minutes - demanding repetition and enslavement to the addiction.
This world has been using addictive drugs for centuries. Why break the pattern? So called "gateway drugs" such as nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol don't draw every user down the path to marijuana and cocaine. Isn't it ok to use, just not abuse? Jesus Christ said, "every one who commits sin is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). But drinking coffee is not a sin, is it? The writer of Hebrews tells us, "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," (Heb. 12:1). Does a person feel weighted down before they have their morning coffee? Habitual or compulsive attractions to any chemical substance can destroy a life. Yet self gratification is a issue of the heart that pushes against any arbitrary rules of "‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’" (Col. 2:23). Jesus looks beneath the surface of any law and focuses on the spirit of the matter. The first commandment says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex.20:3). We are told to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength. Adrenalin is a naturally produced endorphin of the body. It can be released through excitement of competitive sports, sensual images, or fear of getting caught with a hand in the cookie jar. Some people crave this feeling and become enslaved to sports, pornography, theft, and gluttony. Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). Only Christ can set one free indeed from the bondage of addiction. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
The history of drug use and abuse has shown clearly that addictive activities, apart from God, are destructive for individuals and society. Firstly, they bring economic ruin. Individuals are so concerned with inducing the next fix that they will do and pay anything for it. They eventually are left with nothing and thus contribute nothing to society. Secondly, the altered state that drugs illicit forms a deceptive reality that displaces inhibitions of upbringing or conscience and enhances the deeds of the evil nature. Prisons overflow as a result. More frightening than that is the millions who choose to follow gods of their own addicting design down the broad path that leads to destruction. Hell is never satisfied. Clear-thinking citizens need to protect laws that ban illicit drugs so the nation will be orderly. Christians are called to be "a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9). They need to declare what Jesus said of himself in John 8, "if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed". Throughout history, drug abuse and use has only been a symptom of man's condition.
1 Corinthians 6:12 which states "All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything". As Christians under grace we are no longer charged as guilty for our sins but that does not mean we should do whatever we want. Paul said all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. In the debate of drug use, one must consider whether ultimately using the drug is beneficial or not. If one needs to take a drug to relieve pain and is careful not to become addicted, that drug is useful. If using a drug causes addiction or a weakness toward resisting temptation to sin, it is not beneficial. Although not being drug non induced, the Apostle Paul's struggles with addictions can still be instructive for the reader.
"For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 7:15-25)
"Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. …If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines. …" (Colossians 2:16-23)
"Now the Spirit says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim. 4:1-5).
up2Note: Historians classify some items as drugs that today most no longer consider as such. These include: Coffee/caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, tobacco, and tea. Thus, these items do not form any part of this essay.
of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States." <http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/whiteb1.htm>
(June 5, 2005)
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Treat alcohol and drug dependency in rehabilitation centers that can provide proper treatments that combine counseling, group and individual settings, and a structure for overcoming addiction.
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