Addiction has been with us for many hundreds of years. Dating back to the opium dens in China and seeing the move from China to the new world, drugs have been with generally every culture and addiction has always played a part in that culture…
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The story of drug addiction actually begins with the opium wars in China and the fight between the Chinese and the English. The English actually brought opium to China as a way to trade something to them that China did not have and to have an alternative to using silver. In 1839, opium had been outlawed by the government of China to only be used for medicine. However, the British were able to purchase cheap opium and bring it into the country through the British East India Company (Allingham, 2006). Suddenly opium was available everywhere and although it started out as something that only the rich could afford, it quickly spread to about 90% of males under the age of 40 in the coastal regions of China. This had a direct impact on business, civil service and the standard of living; they all were falling apart (Allingham, 2006). Lin Ze-xu (1785-1850), the then appointed anti-opium commissioner estimated that about four million people were addicted to opium; however, a British physician working in the area stated that the addiction was more likely to be 12 million (Allingham, 2006). By 1837, opium was a larger import than any other traded commodity. Wars broke out over the sale and use of opium because of the trade laws that were enacted upon the British. By 1773, opium was traded globally but the British Governor-General of Bengal created a monopoly on the sale of opium and continued to sell Indian opium to China regardless of the rules that China had established for trade. By 1797, opium was eliminated in Bengal, but by the late 19th century, Bengal’s opium was being grown, processed and exported in Bengal (McCoy, n.d.). Alcohol Addiction Begins to be Seen More Often Although alcoholism goes back to biblical days, it has always depended on social trends. Usually, alcohol was a part of every ceremony and every culture. Alcohol was used during the colonial period and was used both as a beverage and as a medicine. The early colonists allowed drunkenness as long as it did not interfere with an individual’s ability to work and make a living (Anonymous, 2009). By the mid to late 19th Century, people stopped trying to control the individual’s behavior to trying to control the consumption of alcohol. As social problems like crime and poverty began to take its toll on the society at large, the social reform movement began to attempt to stop the sale of alcohol. Most people will remember that the Temperance Movement was set to eliminate all of alcohol but of course this did not work because people continued to make their own alcohol. By 1930s, American “alcohol science” was recreated and in this decade Alcoholics Anonymous had also begun (“History”, 2009). The Use of Patent Medicine The use of patent medicines during the 18th and early 19th Century was a precursor to drug regulations. These first medicines had substances like cocaine or heroin in them and the consumers who bought them did not know that these drugs could harm them. Patent medicines were sold as elixirs and tonics that could cure many illnesses whether the consumer was an adult, a child or an infant (Drug Addiction, 2010). Many of these medicines were said to cure tuberculosis and arthritis and many people began to take these remedies which lead to addiction. At that time addiction was unknown and there were no restrictions on their use. Many people ended up losing their lives or having them destroyed because of their use of these remedies. Many early doctors saw that these remedies were actually not helping the ailment and that they were creating addictions instead. However, the patent medicine makers protested any laws that were put in place to stop them from selling the medicines. Eventually, these drugs were stopped once journalists began to talk about
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