I speak my mind because it hurts to bite my tongue. (bumper sticker wisdom)

Did You Know?

  • Addiction – the earliest use of this word was as an edict of Roman law. Addiction referred to a bond of slavery that lenders imposed upon delinquent debtors. The offending individual was mandated to be “addicted” to the service of the person to whom they owed restitution until the debt was satisfied.
  • From the 1500’s addict meant anyone repeatedly acting out habits such as gluttony, obstinacy, and even too much reading.
  • By the 1800’s it occasionally signified over consumption of alcohol or tobacco.
  • In the late 1800’s the current usage begin to take shape. This was due to the over prescribing of opium and morphine by doctors for ailing patients. Then “addict” came to mean “opium, heroin or morphine-eaters” that could not “kick” their habits.
  • During this same time alcohol abusers were often referred to as “the drunkards” and later in medical textbooks as having dipsomania or alcoholism.
  • Opium was the first transglobal pharmaceutical agent in the history of medicine. The more potent morphine was chemically derived from poppy sap in 1803. Named after the Greek Morpheus, the god of dreams, morphine was first mass marketed in the 1820s.
  • The development of the hypodermic needle-syringe in 1853 kicked off an explosion of prescribing and abusing opium, morphine and later codeine and heroin.
  • Some 44,000 Civil War soldiers returned home after the war addicted to morphine.
  • In 1884 Parke, Davis and Company began marketing their new miracle drug – cocaine. It was seen as an antidote for depression and possibly a cure for the rampant morphine addiction.
  • During this time period (1853 to early 1900’s) advocates for the use of cocaine included Sigmund Freud, William Halstead (the father of modern surgery) and Arthur Conan Doyle (doctor and author of the Sherlock Holmes series).
  • Freud found cocaine aided his insecurities and at times, provided solace as he pushed to make a name for himself in medicine. He reportedly used cocaine for the remainder of his life.
  • Freud believed cocaine was an excellent substitute to treat addiction to morphine. He prescribed cocaine to a fellow doctor, Ernest von Fleischl, who was seriously addicted to morphine. Unable to stop once he began using cocaine, Fleischl is the first to die of a “speedball” – a mix of cocaine and heroin – in 1891. He was 45.
  • In Doyle’s books, the character Holmes enjoyed a regular practice of injecting himself with cocaine as a means of relaxing after solving a challenging crime. Doyle himself followed this practice.
  • Germany was the creative hub of pharmaceutical development from the mid-1850’s to the rise of war in Europe.
  • Heroin was brought to the Bayer Company (Bayer aspirin) by a German scientist and was sold legally in the US from 1897 to 1913. When heroin addiction rates soared, it became an impetus for the creation of the Federal Drug Administration.
  • In the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s, the largest population of addicts was women (morphine, opium, and laudanum).
  • In Michigan, Iowa and Chicago between 1878 and 1885, at least 60% of the morphine or opium addicts were women. Men and children were also prescribed these drugs.
  • In this same time period, the abuse of drugs in the US and abroad constituted a major public health problem – reported in various journals of the day including the Popular Science Monthly.
  • In the 1890s the Sears & Roebuck catalogue, which was distributed to millions of Americans homes, offered a syringe and a small amount of cocaine for $1.50. (Source: Cockburn, Alexander; Jeffrey St. Clair (1998). Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. Verso).
  • Drug laws were often used to keep “undesirables” out of the country. There were various mandates against opium to keep the Chinese out as well as mandates against marijuana to keep Mexicans out. And, lots more: search Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, December 14, 1914.
  • The first prison for addicts was the Narcotic Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Founded in 1935 it operated for over 36 years before moving to Baltimore, Maryland and becoming the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 1971.
  • I Get A Kick Out Of You
    Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
    I get no kick from champagne
    Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all
    So tell me why it should be true
    I get a kick out of you.

    Some get a kick from cocaine
    I’m sure that if I took even one sniff
    that would bore me terrifically too
    yet I get a kick out of you.

    Cole Porter’s well known song was originally written as above. In 1936, The Hay Code (censorship rules of the time) of Hollywood required the lyrics be changed removing “cocaine” and substituting the phrase, “Some like the perfume in Spain”.

And so it goes…the more time passes, the more we learn about the history and look to the future of a disease well over 150 years in its evolution.


  • An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine, by Howard Markel, 2011
  • Creating the American Junkie: Addiction Research in the Classic Era of Narcotic Control, Caroline Jean Acker, 2002
  • Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages, by Michael Largo, 2008
  • The Narcotic Farm: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug Addicts by N. Campbell, JP Olsen, L. Walden, 2008
  • Various reverence and internet searches