People are generally aware of the fact that illicit drugs are harmful and their abuse often prove fatal. However, in reality, more Americans abuse legally or illegally obtained prescription drugs and off-the-counter medications than street drugs. As per the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), “Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2014.”
Clearly, in the United States, succumbing to prescription medicines is more common than heroin, probably the most abused illegal drug, and the nation’s “battle against drugs” has taken a new hue with its addition.
Many believe that the pharmaceutical industry is largely responsible for the prevailing addiction to drugs. For years, these companies have been manufacturing and pushing their drugs, mostly opioids and central nervous system (CNS) depressants, into the markets without adequate warnings Tris Promethazine Codeine. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) believes that the prescription drug abuse epidemic is due to the following reasons:
The development of federal statutes and the underlying reasons that led to the criminalization of psycho-active substances in American society began at the turn of the twentieth century. Society reacted to the detriment that resulted from unchecked promotion and use of heroin and cocaine by addicts, paving ethe way for the government to begin drug regulation. The problem had grown during the end of the nineteenth century due to the new methods of ingestion and the isolation of active compounds. In responding to these developments some powerful Americans would learn early on that under the guise of tackling the risks and crippling effects of addiction they could promote corporate monopolies, a single world order, and pacification of liberty. Addiction’s impact on society was a small factor when compared to the actions of a powerful few who saw the masses as only pawns.
Several developments in the latter part of the nineteenth century helped boost the surge of drug use in America. Albert Niemann first isolated the highly addictive active ingredient of the coca plant ‘cocaine’ in 1859 (Cocaine Timeline). The first synthesis of heroin occurred during this period and is credited to C.R. Wright in 1874, who derived heroin from the purified opiate ‘morphine’, first isolated from opium in 1803 by F. W. A. Sertürner (Syndistar), (Musto 183). This coincided with the 1853 development of the hypodermic syringe independently produced by the Scottish physician, Alexander Wood, and French surgeon, Charles Gabriel Pravaz (Heroin Timeline). The hypodermic syringe opened a direct route to the brain for the now pure forms of cocaine and refined opiates. This powerful new combination of purified drugs along with the new method of intravenous injection with the syringe gained a foothold and resulted in a type of drug use and addiction that was previously unseen. While it seemed regulation of these new powerful combinations was going to be needed, the public never imagined citizens would be serving life sentences for distribution of these substances in the near future.
The first federal drug law in the United States was the Food and Drugs Act of 1906. The key person behind the act was Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, who worked as chief chemist at the Department of Agriculture (Pure). The act’s main focus was on proper labeling and for products to remain unadulterated. Most infractions of the act called for $500 fines and one year of prison (Wiley).
Racial oppression, a motivating factor in many early anti-drug laws was apparent by the context and wording of anti drug fevered news and campaigns. The Anti Opium Act of 1909 served to “economically depreciate” Chinese who competed for limited jobs (Parker 29). Not unlike today’s disparity between crack versus powder cocaine concerning criminality, the Chinese method of using opium, smoking, was outlawed, but tinctures of opiates, including heroin, more commonly used by whites, were permissible in small, defined amounts (Parker 30).
Drug politicization took an unprecedented leap in February 1909. The new International Opium Commission met in Shanghai with representatives from the thirteen participating nations: The United States of America, Austria-Hungary, China, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia and Siam. The group met in Shanghai (Musto 183). The commission’s purpose was to institute an international system of drug control. The commission unanimously adopted nine resolutions calling for opiate traffic to be regulated (Steinig). The group’s delegates did not have the authority of their nations to make international law; however, these attending members pulled strings at home to help bring about the International Opium Convention which ended in early 1912. The attending nations signed a treaty at this convention calling for each partner nation to agree to enact domestic drug regulation legislation (Musto 183), (Steinig).