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Opium In America During The 19th Century

1101 words - 4 pages

Opium in Nineteenth Century America Opiate is a term used to include narcotic drugs derived from opium. Drugs such as morphine, heroin, and codeine are all drugs that come from opium. Opium smoking began only after the early Europeans in North America discovered the Indian practice of smoking tobacco in pipes. Some smokers began to mix opium with tobacco in their pipes, and smoking gradually became the preferred method of taking opium. Opium was for many centuries the principal painkiller known to medicine and was used in various forms and under various names (Himmelsbach 21).In the 1800's opium began to move into the United States. Many people used the drug as a way to gain wealth. In Massachusetts, a man by the name of Charles Cabot tried to make his fortune by purchasing opium from the British, and smuggling it to China. He was not the only man trying to make a living smuggling opium. In 1812 a man named John Cushing became very wealthy working for his uncle's business called the James and Thomas H. Perkins Company of Boston. In New York a company called the American Fur Company joined the smuggling bandwagon when they shipped ten tons of opium to Canton and Macedonia (www.opioids"¦).Opium played a major role in the Civil War. Used as a pain reliever, the drug was given to wounded soldiers. Many soldiers attempted to break into medicinal stores to steal opium-derived drugs such as morphine and laudanum. The stores were often protected by a Steward to keep such acts from taking place. The most common drug used as a painkiller during the war was morphine. The morphine was often given as opium pills. A doctor by the name of JJ Chrislom suggested that if morphine pills were not available, then morphine not in the form of a pill should taken by mouth by mixing the powder in a drink. If that did not work, morphine should be injected. Dr. Chrislom wrote, "Finding that one-half grain of morphine every two to three hours produced no alleviation of the patient's suffering, I tried the experiment of injecting one third of a grain, dissolved in two minims of water, under the skin covering the sternum. Absorption was immediate: in two minutes the patient was relieved; in five all pain had disappeared, and in ten minutes from the time of injection the patient was sleeping soundly, after seventy hours of unmitigated torture (www.geocities"¦)." The surgeons of that day had no idea what an addiction was. As a result, most of the soldiers that came back form the war were addicted to opium. Opium, however, was not hard to come by and could be found at a local drug store (www.geocities"¦). Dependence began to develop in the treated soldiers. The patients no longer took the medicine to treat pain, but instead took the medicine to in order to prevent becoming ill. The users began to increase the doses in which they took morphine. The higher doses resulted in higher tolerance for the drug. The medicine would become hard to get in the quantities...

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